ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. They’re a non-profit, public-benefit corporation that has a wealth of different opinions and perspectives which are all of the greater good to help move the multi-stakeholder system forward. The current president and CEO of ICANN is Göran Marby and the organizations headquarters is located in Playa Vista, California. ICANN was created back in 1998 with the purpose of moving a domain name system that holds all the domains and addresses together on the internet globally. Basically, ICANN is an institution that was started in order to transfer the responsibility from the United States Government into a multi-stakeholder, non-profit organization. When that happened the JPA (Joint Project Agreement) was setup to assist that transfer and to make sure everything was transferred smoothly.
What Exactly Does ICANN Do?
As explained above, the institution is a global coordinator of the Internet Domain Name System, which includes all domain names, internet addresses, protocol, and parameter registries. It’s an international consensus-driven organization that uses a bottom-up policy development process so they can develop their procedures globally. ICANN has a commitment to have a globally unified, stable and secure internet. The organization works with all of the different registries and operators around the world. Best of all, it’s evolving and growing with the internet. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has different stakeholder groups containing ISPs, Country Code Operators, Civil Society, Non-Profits and all kinds of other various business groups. The policy development process initiative works through the community using three supporting organizations.
1. ASO – Address Supporting Organization
2. GNSO – Generic Name Supporting Organization
3. ccNSO – Country Code Name Supporting Organization
Along with that, there are also four different advisory groups:
1. GAC – Governmental Advisory Committee
2. ALAC – At-Large Advisory Committee
3. SSAC – Security & Stability Advisory Committee
4. RSSAC – Root Server System Advisory Committee
New policies are completed through the organization and community processes. That’s because the organization wants to make sure the community continues to steer the domain name system, policy and procedures are coordinated as much as possible which prevents broadening the role of one government in place of others. For what it’s worth, ICANN does an excellent job of making sure one larger country (such as the United States) doesn’t have more authority over domain names when compared to a smaller country (such as South Africa).
Internet Coordination is a Big Part of ICANN’s Role
The organization (consisting of roughly 20 people in its Board of Directors) does several different things and to better understand their role you should know four important terms:
1. Domain Names
2. Internet Addresses
3. The Domain Name System
4. Parameter Protocol Registries
Domain Names – There are over 333 million domain names registered in the world. Those domains are connected by the top level root of the internet, which is the listing of all top level domains (COM, NET, EU, DE..etc).
Internet Addresses – They have two different types of internet addresses, old and new. IPv4 is now considered an old address while IPv6 is considered new addresses. Addresses are used by all different types of devices from all around the internet, and that usage is growing. ICANN is considered the coordinators for the district nation of internet addresses.
Domain Name System – Anytime you are using a device on the internet, the web address that you type in must be converted into a network address. Devices on the internet don’t talk by name. Instead, they only use long numbers to communicate with one another.
Parameter and Protocol Registries – These are the parameter settings for computers and networks. ICANN doesn’t create this as it’s formed at the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). The IETF comes up with different parameters and then develops the standards for the internet. However, ICANN is the designated publisher. ICANN publishes this as a “public service” which then helps to hold the internet together because all network devices need to know what parameters should be set so that they can successfully talk to each other.