ICANN. The Organization and Governance of the Internet

Pre-University Paper 2009 19 Pages

Didactics - English - Applied Geography



1 Introduction

2 The history of ICANN

3 Organization and structure
3.1 Organizational bodies
3.2 Accountability
3.3 Decision-making process

4 The tasks of ICANN
4.1 Domain Name System
4.2 Accrediting registrars
4.3 Root System
4.4 Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy
4.5 Universal resolvability

5 Criticism & problems
5.1 New top-level domain system
5.2 Consensus model
5.3 Grace period
5.4 Contract with the U.S. government


1 Introduction

“When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web... Now even my cat has its own page.“1 This quotation by Bill Clinton from 1996 describes exactly the evolution ofthe Internet. Only a few years ago, hardly no one of us had any idea what the Internet really was, what it would be good for, or how we might use it. Today most of us could not even live without it just for one day. We permanently use the Internet for so many purposes. News, entertainment, communication, file sharing, shopping, education and many more things like these. Nowadays the Internet is also a basic element for various sectors which totally depend on it, such as telecommunication, the economy or infrastructure. But how does this highly complicated system actually work? And how is it possible that each web site can be reached any time by everyone worldwide?

2 The History of ICANN

When the Internet was in its small beginnings, a group of volunteers, called the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. government contractors controlled the Domain Name System which ensures to find a certain website. In 1992, the private company Network Solutions was contracted by the NSF to manage the top-level domains (TLD) .com, .org and .net. Together with the InternetAssigned Numbers Authority (IANA) it controlled the root system (see 4.3).

When the Internet grew bigger and bigger, the assignment of domain names was not that easy anymore because popular .com names became rare and so Network Solution’s private monopoly was criticized. Also the governments of some countries expressed concern over the U.S. control ofthe root system. As

Network Solution’s contract with the NSF expired in 1997, the Department of Commerce came up with a plan, known as the White Paper, to transfer the administration of the Domain Name System to a private, non-profit corporation and thus improve its technical management. Then in 1998, a group of computer scientists, Internet service providers and trademark interests met to form an initial Board of Directors and shortly after that, on September 18, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was founded as a private, non-profit corporation in Marina Del Rey, California. This is also said to be cyberspace’s own “constitutional moment’2.

ICANN’s major objective is to manage the Domain Name System to ensure that every Internet address only exists once so users can get to the website they want. Without ICANN’s coordination of these unique identifiers across the world, we would not have one global Internet.

Over the last years ICANN made important decisions. It came up with the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) so that trademarks cannot be abused any longer. In 2001 and 2002, seven new top-level domains (.biz, .info, .name, .pro, .aero, .coop and .museum) were introduced and followed by .eu, .travel, .jobs, .cat and .mobi in 2005 and .asia in 2006, when the contract with ICANN was renewed and a new Memorandum of Understanding was signed, too, with the United States Department of Commerce to clarify the relationship with the U.S. government.

3 Organization and Structure

3.1 Organizational bodies

“At present, ICANN is formally organized as a non-profit corporation for charitable and public purposes under the California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law.’ß ICANN has different organizational bodies. The structure is visualized in the following Figure:

The management of ICANN is done by a Board of Directors. Eight members are selected through an independent Nominating Committee, six by the supporting organizations, and another six by advisory committees. In addition, the advisory committees have non-voting members. Their number is variable. The President and CEO Paul Twomey is also part ofthe Board. He directs the work of ICANN staff, who is based all over the globe. The ICANN staff helps with coordination, management and implementing decisions made by the supporting organizations.

ICANN has three supporting organizations at the moment. The Generic3 Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) deals with policy making on generic top-level domains. The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) deals with policy making on country-code top-level domains. The Address Supporting Organization (ASO) deals with policy making on IP addresses.4

The advisory committees, which provide advice and recommendations, represent government organizations, technical and security groups, and also average Internet users in the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC). Independent reviewing of the work of the ICANN staff and Board is carried out by an Ombudsman.

3.2 Accountability

ICANN is held accountable externally as well as internally. As ICANN is incorporated under the law of the State of California, it must follow the laws of the United States and can be taken to court in case of a violation. The directors are also responsible for upholding their duties under the corporation law because ICANN is a non-profit public benefit corporation. The internal accountabilities to the community are ICANN’s bylaws, the ICANN Board, the Nominating Committee, senior staff that must be elected annually and “three different dispute resolution procedures”5. These are the Ombudsman, an Independent Review Panel and the Board reconsideration committee.

3.3 Decision-making process

Normally changes come from suggestions by one of the supporting organizations, where they are also discussed and followed by a report which is put out for public review. If any other group within ICANN’s system is affected with the suggested changes, it takes a look on it, and after that the result is put out for public review one more time. Then the ICANN Board of Directors gets a report including all the previous discussions and a list of recommendations. The issue is discussed by the Board and it “either approves the changes, approves some and rejects others, rejects all of them, or sends the issue back down to one of the supporting organizations to review, often with an explanation as to what the problems are that need to be resolved before it can be approved.’e Until all parts of ICANN make a compromise or the Board of Directors makes a decision on one of the reports, the process is rerun.

4 The tasks of ICANN

4.1 Domain Name System

One of the main tasks of ICANN is managing the Domain Name System, which is created for easier access to the Internet. Each Internet address disposes of two basic components, a domain name and an Internet protocol number. You can imagine the Domain Name System as a kind of electronic telephone book. In a telephone book a person’s name is associated with a given phone number. In the same way, the Domain Name System associates a domain name with an Internet protocol number.

A domain name, also often just referred to as a domain, e.g. icann.org, consist of two elements. The part to the left of the dot is the domain name itself, sometimes also called second-level domain, which is registered and then used to provide online systems, such as websites and email. There a several registrars who are responsible for the sale of these domains. An example for this is DENIC eG for all the domains under the TLD .de. As ICANN governs all the TLDs, the terms and conditions are defined by ICANN with the cooperation Ibid., p. 3.


1 Bill Clinton, URL: http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/31751.html

2 Kathleen E. Fuller, “ICANN: The debate over governing the internet", URL: http://www.law.duke.edu/journals/dltr/ARTICLES/2001dltr0002.html, p. 1.

3 Wikipedia, “ICANN", URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icann

4 Ibid.

5 “About ICANN“, URL: http://losangeles2007.icann.org/icann, p. 4.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
468 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
Gymnasium Königsbrunn
13 Punkte
ICANN Internet Organization Governance Domain Name System Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers Top-Level-Domains Root System Internetverwaltung IP-Adressen




Title: ICANN. The Organization and Governance of the Internet