Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages domain names for websites and email servers. To date, ICANN has been controlled by the U.S Department of Commerce; however, the contract will expire in September 2015.
The U.S Department of Commerce has always overseen ICANN, but generally “rubber stamps” their approach. This matches the thought that the Internet should be free and open, and the government shouldn’t interfere. At the 49th public meeting of ICANN this week in Singapore, they are going to try to create a new structure without any government involvement that will accomplish the same oversight objectives.
“Basically, ICANN is going to convene all the relevant stakeholders, the engineers, the administrators of the top-level domains, the various countries that are involved, and they’re all going to get together and try to come up with a new model,” said Gauthem Nagesh, a technology reporter at The Wall Street Journal, to NPR last week. “But the real point is to just ensure that ICANN is doing its job the way it’s already been done.”
Although the change of control should not impact Internet censorship, there are concerns. These are probably based on the actions of NSA and the top-down approach of Russia and China.
The ICANN move shouldn’t change how the Internet operates or have any business impact. It will be interesting to see the new approach and find out who will be controlling the Internet.
The Wall Street Journal also offers a useful primer, “ICANN 101: Who Will Oversee the Internet?” that outlines ICANN’s role in Internet oversight, its history and how changes may affect Internet users going forward.