Pew Research Center, Lee Raine: “It is important to remember that no one, no government and no organization “controls the internet.” ICANN is a crucial cog in the functioning of the internet because computers (and the people who use them) cannot find each other on the internet without Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. ICANN oversees how those addresses are doled out and how they are named. No IP address; no connectivity between your computer, smartphone, or tablet and others. No IP address; no website. It is such a huge system that the original creators of the internet in the 1970s-1980s substantially underestimated how many addresses would be needed. They built a system that allowed for about 4.3 billion addresses, and the world has been scrambling in recent years to expand to a system, called Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), that allows for roughly 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses. (Yes, that’s right.) ICANN’s big job is to ensure that when users try to access a website or send an email, they end up in the right place. It is perhaps best known for coordinating the Domain Naming System (DNS), the key bits of information that fall on either side of the “dot” in a web address. It set up the nomenclature for the right side of “top level domain,” which, for most of the history of the Web consisted of a few familiar suffixes – .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil and some country-specific domains like .af for Afghanistan and .by for Belarus. A raft of new top-level domains are now being reviewed or have recently been approved, many of which are trying to tie a top-level domain to a particular topic such as .museum or .plumbing. ICANN makes arrangements with “registries” to administer those top level domains. In turn, those accredited registries handle the material on the left side of the dot – selling or providing local domain names to websites or email providers.”
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