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ICANN - Do they really control the Internet?

By Jakob Jelling

ICANN stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is one of the foremost regulatory authorities of the World Wide Web. While its domain remains small, the scope of this group’s activities is quite large and important. It is an international organization which is based on the principle of a not for profit technical and policy-making facility. The main responsibility of ICANN is the allocation of IP or Internet Protocol addresses. Let me explain this further. Every website on the World Wide Web has an exclusive number assigned to it. This number is exclusive to a website and functions like a telephone number. This becomes the unique identification address of a website over the internet and it is only through this number that you can access the website. However, since it is very difficult to memorize a large string of numbers, websites have to select a name for them and register this with ICANN.

Also, ICANN has the responsibility of regulating TLD (or Top –Level Domain) name systems. This includes both generic domain names (gTLDs) and specific country code names (ccTLDs). Apart from this, internationally, root server systems and their management also come under the responsibility of ICANN. A unique feature of ICANN is that this is a partnership between the government and private sectors. This partnership makes sure that the internet remains an operationally stable and organized space. ICANN also makes sure that no one community or country gains a monopoly over the World Wide Web. To this effect, it makes sure that various disparate global communities have a say in the operation and regulation of the internet. The management operations of ICANN further this process by adopting a consensus based decision making process while developing policies.

One of the other functions of ICANN is the management of the Domain Name System (DNS). They also manage the technology by which domain names are assigned. This is quite crucial because it makes sure that any internet user can have access to all the IP addresses available on the World Wide Web. ICANN also has the responsibility of choosing and distributing Top Level Domain names, for example, .com, .net, .org etc. although ICANN as a regulatory organization has no jurisdiction over the workings of any financial transactions over the internet, copyright control of content, unsolicited commercial email or spam or any other sort of security of data on the internet. ICANN has greatly helped in the fostering of competition in its field. It is through its efforts that the costs of registering a domain name on the internet have gone down by almost 80%.