August 2, 2010

ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

ICANN- ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Headquartered in Marina Del Rey, California, United States, ICANN is a non-profit corporation that was created on September 18, 1998 in order to oversee a number of Internet-related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the U.S. government by other organizations, notably the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

ICANN's tasks include responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) top-level domain name system management, and root server system management functions. More generically, ICANN is responsible for managing the assignment of domain names and IP addresses. To date, much of its work has concerned the introduction of new generic top-level domains (TLDs). The technical work of ICANN is referred to as the IANA function. ICANN's other primary function involves helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

On September 29, 2006, ICANN signed a new agreement with the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) that is a step forward toward the full management of the Internet's system of centrally coordinated identifiers through the multi-stakeholder model of consultation that ICANN represents.

On November 3, 2007, Peter Dengate Thrush replaced Vint Cerf as Chairman of the ICANN Board of Directors.

On July 1, 2009 Rod Beckstrom was appointed as CEO/President of ICANN, succeeding Paul Twomey who served in the position from March 27, 2003 until July 1, 2009.

At present, ICANN is formally organized as a non-profit corporation "for charitable and public purposes" under the California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law. It is managed by a Board of Directors, which is composed of six representatives of the Supporting Organizations, sub-groups that deal with specific sections of the policies under ICANN's purview; eight independent representatives of the general public interest, selected through a Nominating Committee in which all the constituencies of ICANN are represented; and the President and CEO, appointed by the rest of the Board.

There are currently three Supporting Organizations. The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) deals with policy making on generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) deals with policy making on country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs). The Address Supporting Organization (ASO) deals with policy making on IP addresses.

ICANN also relies on some advisory committees to receive advice on the interests and needs of stakeholders that do not directly participate in the Supporting Organizations. These include the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which is composed of representatives of a large number of national governments from all the world; the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) which is composed of representatives of organizations of individual Internet users from around the world; the Root Server System Advisory Committee which provides advice on the operation of the DNS root server system; the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) which is composed of Internet experts who study security issues pertaining to ICANN's mandate; and the Technical Liaison Group (TLG) which is composed of representatives of other international technical organizations that focus, at least in part, on the Internet.
The GNSO is the main policy-making body of ICANN and comprises of four main groups: registries (companies running generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as VeriSign for dot-com or Afilias for dot-info); registrars (companies that sell registrations of particular domains e.g.; commercial users of the Internet; and non-commercial users of the Internet.

The GNSO is currently undergoing significant change following an extensive independent review process. As such the information presented below is liable to change and you should check the GNSO website for the latest information on which body is most suitable for you to join.

The ALAC is the body that represents the interests of individual Internet users within ICANN.

Global users are represented through small self-forming groups called At Large Structures (ALSes) who are themselves part of Regional At Large Organizations (RALOs).

Any group that supports individuals' ability to share their views on ICANN issues, and that meets a few criteria can register to be an At-Large Structure. Examples include: professional societies; academic and research organizations; community networking groups; consumer advocacy groups; Internet Society chapters; Computer user organizations and Internet civil society groups. There is no application or membership fee.

The RALOs also have their own regional websites (external sites):

The ccNSO represents the managers of country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) such as Britain's dot-uk registry or Germany's dot-de registry. You have to be a ccTLD manager to join. If you are, an online application form is available. Membership is free. You can follow the ccNSO's work through its website, for example through its Council minutes.

The GAC represents governments and governmental organizations. You need to be a formally acknowledged representative of a government or interational organization to become a member. You can email the GAC's secretariat for more information.

The ASO represents the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) - companies that oversee the allocation of Internet number resources in particular geographic regions. You would need to be an RIR to join the ASO, however you can follow their work online through its mailing lists.

The SSAC advises the ICANN community and Board on matters relating to the security and integrity of the Internet's naming and address allocation systems. It is an invited-members-only organization. The SSAC produces reports and advisories on technical aspects of the Internet's security and stability.
What is the domain name system?
The domain name system, or DNS, is a system designed to make the Internet accessible to human beings. The main way computers that make up the Internet find one another is through a series of numbers, with each number (called an “IP address”) correlating to a different device. However it is difficult for the human mind to remember long lists of numbers so the DNS uses letters rather than numbers, and then links a precise series of letters with a precise series of numbers.

The end result is that ICANN’s website can be found at “” rather than “” – which is how computers on the network know it. One advantage to this system – apart from making the network much easier to use for people – is that a particular domain name does not have to be tied to one particular computer because the link between a particular domain and a particular IP address can be changed quickly and easily. This change will then be recognised by the entire Internet within 48 hours thanks to the constantly updating DNS infrastructure. The result is an extremely flexible system.

A domain name itself comprises two elements: before and after “the dot”. The part to the right of the dot, such as “com”, “net”, “org” and so on, is known as a “top-level domain” or TLD. One company in each case (called a registry), is in charge of all domains ending with that particular TLD and has access to a full list of domains directly under that name, as well as the IP addresses with which those names are associated. The part before the dot is the domain name that you register and which is then used to provide online systems such as websites, email and so on. These domains are sold by a large number of “registrars”, free to charge whatever they wish, although in each case they pay a set per-domain fee to the particular registry under whose name the domain is being registered.

ICANN draws up contracts with each registry*. It also runs an accreditation system for registrars. It is these contracts that provide a consistent and stable environment for the domain name system, and hence the Internet.

In summary then, the DNS provides an addressing system for the Internet so people can find particular websites. It is also the basis for email and many other online uses.

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