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Home > Learn More > Tech > The History of ICANN

The History of ICANN

Pronounced eye-can, the ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. They are based out of Marina Del Rey, California, in the United States. This corporation is non-profit, and it was created in order to oversee those internet-based tasks that were previously performed by other organizations on behalf of our U.S. government. One of the most notable organizations to perform these tasks is known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA.

Some of the tasks that ICANN is responsible for include protocol identifier assignment, Internet Protocol address allocation, robot server system management functions, and country code and generic Top Level Domain name management system.  In general terms, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is responsible for the management and assignment of IP addresses and domain names.

Up until this point, much of the ICANN’s work has revolved around the introduction of new and generic top level domains. When ICANN’s work becomes technical, it is often referred to as the IANA function. The other primary function of ICANN is helping to preserve the operational stability of the World Wide Web, to achieve a broad representation of the global web community, to promote stiff competition, and also to develop policies that are appropriate to its mission through consensus based, bottom-up processes.

In September of 2006, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers co-signed a new agreement with DOC or the United States Department of Commerce that is a step forward toward the full and proper management of the World Wide Web’s system of centrally coordinated identifiers, and it is done through the ICANN’s multi-stakeholder method of consultation. The president of ICANN has been Paul Twomey since March of 2003, and in November of 2007, Vint Cerf was replaced as Chairman of the Board of Directors by Peter Dengate Thrush.

The original mandate that brought about the creation of ICANN came straight from the United States government, and it has spanned the entire administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In January of 1998, the NTIA, or National Telecommunications and Informative Administration, which is also an agency of the Department of Commerce in the U.S., issued a proposal to improve the U.S.’s technical management of internet addresses and names. This was also known as the Green Paper.

The Green Paper proposed that certain methods and actions be designed specifically to privatize the management of internet addresses and names in a manner that would allow for the development of lively competition. It would also facilitate the global participation of internet management. This paper also proposed for a discussion of a variety of issues that related to DNS management. These included a private sector creation of a new corporation that would be non-profit, managed by a functionally representative and global Board of Directors, and this is what became ICANN.

At times, there have been alternatives suggested for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that would manage the address space and DNS namespace. Some of these alternatives included turning ICANN into a UN agency, letting the United States government perform ICANN’s duties directly, letting go of all control and having a free-for-all for DNS name space, directing ICANN’s duties to the International Telecommunication Union, and creating a new organization that would be non-profit and have no links to any currently interested parties. However, none of these proposals ever gained enough support to be considered a viable replacement for ICANN.

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