US To Hand Over Control of Internet Domain Names

After 16 years of being in control of a large portion of the Internet, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is handing over oversight of the Domain Name System (DNS) to another organization. ICANN is technically run by many groups that are considered "stakeholders," but the U.S. Department of Commerce is largely in charge. Since the DNS is such an important part of the Web, allowing the U.S. to control it has been a point of concern for some.

The global entity that will take over the DNS has yet to be announced, though the Department of Commerce has said it would be an international non-governmental group. Without ties to any particular nation, the organization that replaces ICANN will presumably allow for a more open Internet that does not answer to one individual country.

Waiting Since 1998

No matter which Web site you are trying to visit, ICANN is probably responsible for the registration of that site's domain name. Since the DNS is crucial to the Web, the U.S. government has always had a central role in the system. Prior to 1998, Jon Postel, the founder of ICANN, was in charge of the DNS and reported directly to the government. However, Postel's death in 1998 resulted in other ICANN members taking over the job and eventually adopting the stakeholder model.

Once Postel was gone, ICANN took a pledge to turn over control of the Internet to an independent organization, and after Friday's announcement, the time to fulfill that pledge has finally come. When ICANN was being put together, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) was placed under its control and the partnership that IANA has with the U.S. government will be allowed to expire on Sept. 30, 2015.

Not the United Nations

Since the replacement of ICANN with another...

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