Internet Basics – The Role of ICANN

INTERNET – The Internet has many benefits and opens many doors for people all over the world, however there are also many dangers and pitfalls for the unwary. Criminals, perverts and obscure characters are ever present in any society; therefore it is advisable for every new Internet user and parent to get a basic understanding or overview of the Internet, find out who ‘controls’ it, where the dangers are and where to get help or protection when needed.

We explore a few basic concepts and ‘delve into the Internet’s Engine’ to expose a little more about its inner workings. Here we focus on the role of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as one of the very important role-players in the Internet arena. It is considered to be important as it may enable Internet users to connect with other major Internet controlling bodies or organizations when feeling intimidated by criminal activities or elements.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

To reach another person or facility on the Internet, you have to type an address into your computer – a name or a number and you must also have your own address to receive anything back. Both addresses have to be unique so computers all over the world know where to find each other. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) coordinates these unique identifiers (Internet Protocol Address, also referred to as IP or Web Address) across the world. Nobody owns the Internet but without that coordination the global Internet will not exist.

ICANN was formed in 1998 and is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers. Organizations that control IP address ranges are members of ICANN and mainly consist of Domain Registrars for Top Level Domains (TLD – .com, .net, etc), Regional and Sub-domain Registrars (.co.uk, .org.za, .com.au, etc). Webhosting companies and Internet Service Providers (ISP) lease their IP Addresses from Domain Registrars. These are however not the only organizations involved with ICANN.

ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet, but through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. Other stakeholders like Domain Registrars, Webhosts, ISP’s and more however do have a vested interest to protect their domains and IP addresses, as they can be excluded at various Internet levels by anyone with appropriate Internet facilities and who choose to do so.

If they facilitate criminal or other unappreciated activities via their networks or facilities, they can systematically be banned or barred from any other part of the Internet and will in most cases collaborate with complainants when someone breaks the law. However don’t expect them to collaborate with you if you wish to impose your values, beliefs or religion on their clients; there are other resources like anti-virus software and block lists to achieve that.

Visit the ICANN website for more information about ICANN. A detailed overview of ICANN can also be found at Wikipedia.

Disclaimer: This article is aimed to convey basic concepts to the general public and not to serve as technical, functional or other resource. Some explanations may therefore be overly simplified, which may represent errors when evaluated at a technical or professional level (eg. the technical differences between Domain, URL, IP and Web Address).

OTHER RESOURCES