Who Controls the Internet?
Who would have ever guessed that a series of 0’s and 1’s would grow into the highway of information we call the internet? If we consider that it started out as a way to share information in a read-only format to become the massive interactive 2.0 web we are so accustomed to today, it can overwhelm the mind. The “world wide web” really has become worldwide. But who is in control of it? Who actually gets to say whether or not your .com domain name is available? As the internet continues to expand there are many questions being raised as to who governs domain names and how they are to be expanded to accommodate growth. As a rule no one controls the internet, each website is controlled by a webmaster and websites such as Google or Facebook have developed standards and best practices by which they govern themselves. Official control of the internet is limited to the control of domain names, which names are issued, which ones are already taken… (Who owns www.netlz.com [for example]?) The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has a lot to do with that for now. However, there may be some changes on the horizon.
Who is ICANN
ICANN is a worldwide partnership that maintains a not-for-profit status. It was formed in 1998 and the purpose was to help keep the internet stable and secure. ICANN has no control over the content that is displayed on the internet but it does coordinate the internet’s naming system. And it has a lot to do with how domain names are expanded.
Each computer has its own unique IP address which is a series of numbers. This helps computers be able to find one another and helps to identify and coordinate them across the globe so that there is one internet. There are not two of these IP addresses that are the same; each computer has a unique identifier this way. ICANN works to make sure these IP addresses are coordinated so that there are no repetitions. ICANN develops the various policies on how these unique identifiers are handled.
What Does ICANN do?
ICANN has no control over some elements of the internet. They in no way manage content, they do not stop spam and they have no say so over access to the World Wide Web. However, they do coordinate the whole naming system used by the internet. This has a significant impact on how the internet expands and how it changes over time.
One of the responsibilities that ICANN does have is to help regulate and maintain domain names. This is a rather large task with the exponential growth of internet users and those wanting to launch web marketing campaigns. To set up any web site you will have to check your desired domain name with sites across the world to ensure that there are no duplicates. To have duplicate domain names could cause terrible problems!
Presently there are over 20 generic domains. This includes the very familiar .com, .net, .gov, .org and .edu. But with the growth of the internet across the globe, and almost half of the users located in Asia, some changes to the available domains may be on the way. ICANN is proposing the release of many more domains in the not too distant future; and this expansion may include non-Roman characters.
Possible Changes in Control
ICANN is moving toward adding even more domain names so that individuals have more power over their own brands. For instance you could purchase a domain name that was .yourcompanyname. You can purchase your personalized domain name for just under $200,000. This allows different businesses to protect their own domain and brand name.
There are many opponents who say that ICANN is not global enough and that these attempts to help internet users protect their brand fall too short. And quite honestly, many are saying that ICANN is not focused enough on the international demands of the market. This is why some are moving to put the internet under the control of the U.N. They feel that it would help the internet to be governed. Others however, feel that such international input could place more regulations on the internet and put its openness in jeopardy. ICANN wants to ensure that the internet remains free and open.