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Founded September 18, 1998
Headquarters Marina Del Rey, California
Focus Manage Internet Protocol numbers and Domain Name System root
Website www.icann.org
ICANN headquarters at USC ISI

ICANN (pronounced /aɪkæn/, eye-can) is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Headquartered in Marina Del Rey, California, United States, ICANN is a non-profit corporation that was created on September 18, 1998 in order to oversee a number of Internet-related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the U.S. government by other organizations, notably the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

ICANN's tasks include responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top Level Domain name system management, and root server system management functions. More generically, ICANN is responsible for managing the assignment of domain names and IP addresses. To date, much of its work has concerned the introduction of new generic top-level domains. The technical work of ICANN is referred to as the IANA function. ICANN's other primary function involves helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

On September 29, 2006, ICANN signed a new agreement with the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) that is a step forward toward the full management of the Internet's system of centrally coordinated identifiers through the multi-stakeholder model of consultation that ICANN represents.[1]

Paul Twomey has been the President/CEO of ICANN since March 27, 2003. As of November 3, 2007, Peter Dengate Thrush replaced Vint Cerf as Chairman of the ICANN Board of Directors[2] .


[edit] Structure

At present, ICANN is formally organized as a non-profit corporation "for charitable and public purposes" under the California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law. It is managed by a Board of Directors, which is composed of six representatives of the Supporting Organizations, sub-groups that deal with specific sections of the policies under ICANN's purview; eight independent representatives of the general public interest, selected through a Nominating Committee in which all the constituencies of ICANN are represented; and the President and CEO, appointed by the rest of the Board.

There are currently three Supporting Organizations. The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) deals with policy making on generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) deals with policy making on country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs). The Address Supporting Organization (ASO) deals with policy making on IP addresses.

ICANN also relies on some advisory committees to receive advice on the interests and needs of stakeholders that do not directly participate in the Supporting Organizations. These include the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which is composed of representatives of a large number of national governments from all the world; the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) which is composed of representatives of organizations of individual Internet users from around the world; the Root Server System Advisory Committee which provides advice on the operation of the DNS root server system; the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) which is composed of Internet experts who study security issues pertaining to ICANN's mandate; and the Technical Liaison Group (TLG) which is composed of representatives of other international technical organizations that focus, at least in part, on the Internet.

[edit] Procedures

ICANN holds periodic public meetings rotated between continents for the purpose of encouraging global participation in its processes. Critics argue that the locations of these meetings are often in countries with lower Internet usage and far away from locations that the majority of the Internet-using public can afford to reach. This makes public input or participation from traditional Internet users less likely. Supporters reply that ICANN has a worldwide presence, and a key part of its mission is to build Internet use where it is weak.

ICANN was established in California due to the presence of Jon Postel, who was a founder of ICANN and was set to be its first CTO prior to his unexpected death. ICANN remains in the same building where he worked, which is home to an office of the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.

Resolutions of the ICANN Board, preliminary reports and minutes of the meetings are published on the ICANN website, sometimes in real time. However there are criticisms from ICANN constituencies including Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC) and At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) that there is not enough public disclosure and that too many discussions take place and too many decisions are made out of sight of the public.

[edit] UDRP

One task that ICANN was asked to do was to address the issue of domain name ownership resolution for generic top-level domains (gTLDs). ICANN's attempt at such a policy was drafted in close cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the result has now become known as the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). This policy essentially attempts to provide a mechanism for rapid, cheap and reasonable resolution of domain name conflicts, avoiding the traditional court system for disputes by allowing cases to be brought to one of a set of bodies that arbitrate domain name disputes. According to ICANN policy, a domain registrant must agree to be bound by the UDRP — they cannot get a domain name without agreeing to this.

A look at the UDRP decision patterns has led some[3] to conclude that compulsory domain name arbitration is less likely to give a fair hearing to domain name owners asserting defenses under the First Amendment and other laws, compared to the federal courts of appeal in particular.

[edit] Notable events in history

The original mandate for ICANN came from the United States government, spanning the presidential administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. On January 30, 1998, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, issued for comment, "A Proposal to Improve the Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses." The proposed rule making, or "Green Paper", was published in the Federal Register on February 20, 1998, providing opportunity for public comment. NTIA received more than 650 comments as of March 23, 1998, when the comment period closed.

The Green Paper proposed certain actions designed to privatize the management of Internet names and addresses in a manner that allows for the development of robust competition and facilitates global participation in Internet management. The Green Paper proposed for discussion a variety of issues relating to DNS management including private sector creation of a new not-for-profit corporation (the "new corporation") managed by a globally and functionally representative Board of Directors. ICANN was formed in response to this policy. The IANA function currently exists under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

On March 14, 2002, in a public meeting in Accra, in Ghana, ICANN decided to reduce direct public ("at large") participation.

On March 18, 2002, publicly elected At-Large Representative for North America board member Karl Auerbach sued ICANN in Superior Court in California to gain access to ICANN's accounting records without restriction. Auerbach won.

In September and October 2003 ICANN played a crucial role in the conflict over VeriSign's "wild card" DNS service Site Finder. After an open letter from ICANN issuing an ultimatum to VeriSign, later supported by the IAB,[4] the company voluntarily shut down the service on October 4, 2003. Following this action, VeriSign filed a lawsuit against ICANN on February 27, 2004, claiming that ICANN had overstepped its authority. In this lawsuit, VeriSign sought to reduce ambiguity about ICANN's authority. The antitrust component of VeriSign's claim was dismissed in August 2004. VeriSign's broader challenge that ICANN overstepped its contractual rights is currently outstanding. A proposed settlement already approved by ICANN's board would resolve VeriSign's challenge to ICANN in exchange for the right to increase pricing on .com domains. At the meeting of ICANN in Rome which took place from March 2 to March 6, 2004, ICANN agreed to ask approval of the US Department of Commerce for the Waiting List Service of VeriSign.

On May 17, 2004, ICANN published a proposed budget for the year 2004-05. It included proposals to increase the openness and professionalism of its operations, and greatly increased its proposed spending from US $8.27m to $15.83m. The increase was to be funded by the introduction of new top-level domains, charges to domain registries, and a fee for some domain name registrations, renewals and transfers (initially USD 0.20 for all domains within a country-code top-level domain, and USD 0.25 for all others). The Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries (CENTR), which represents the Internet registries of 39 countries, rejected the increase, accusing ICANN of a lack of financial prudence and criticising what it describes as ICANN's "unrealistic political and operational targets". Despite the criticism, the registry agreement for the top-level domains .jobs and .travel includes a US $2 fee on every domain the licensed companies sell or renew.[5]

Along with the successful negotiations of the .travel and .jobs namespace, .mobi, and .cat are some of the new top-level domains introduced by ICANN. The introduction of the .eu Top Level Domain to the root in violation of RFC 1591[nb 1], and the introduction of .asia are developments to watch.

After an extensive build-up that saw speculation that the United Nations might signal a takeover of ICANN[6], followed by a negative reaction from the US government[7] and worries about a division of the internet[8] the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia in November 2005 agreed not to get involved in the day-to-day and technical operations of ICANN. However it also agreed to set up an international Internet Governance Forum, with a consultative role on the future governance of the Internet. ICANN's Government Advisory Committee is currently set up to provide advice to ICANN regarding public policy issues and has participation by many of the world's governments.

ICANN meeting, Los Angeles USA, 2007. The sign refers to Vint Cerf, then Chairman of the Board of Directors, who is working on the Interplanetary Internet.

On February 28, 2006, ICANN's board approved a settlement with VeriSign in the lawsuit resulting from SiteFinder that involved allowing VeriSign (the registry) to raise its registration fees by up to 7% a year.[9] This was criticised by some people in the US House of Representatives' Small Business committee.[10]

On May 10, 2006 ICANN failed to approve a plan for a new ".xxx" suffix that would have been designated for websites with pornographic content. ICANN formally rejected .xxx on March 30, 2007 during its meeting at Lisbon, Portugal.

On July 26, 2006, the United States government renewed the contract with ICANN for performance of the IANA function for an additional one to five years[11]. The context of ICANN's relationship with the U.S. government was clarified on September 29, 2006 when ICANN signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Department of Commerce (DOC).

In February 2007, ICANN began the steps to remove accreditation of one of their registrars, RegisterFly amid charges and lawsuits involving fraud, and criticism of ICANN's handling of the situation. ICANN has been the subject of criticism as a result of its handling of RegisterFly, and the harm caused to thousands of clients due to what has been called ICANN's "laissez faire attitude toward customer allegations of fraud".[12]

On May 23, 2008 ICANN issued Enforcement Notices against 10 Accredited Registrars and announced this through press release entitled: "Worst Spam Offenders" Notified by ICANN, Compliance system working to correct Whois and other issues[13]. This was largely in response to a report issued by KnujOn called The 10 Worst Registrars in terms of spam advertised junk product sites and compliance failure. The mention of the word spam in the title of the ICANN memo is somewhat misleading since ICANN does not address issues of spam or email abuse. Website content and usage are not within ICANN's mandate. However the KnujOn Report details how various registrars have not complied with their contractual obligations under the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)[14]. The main point of the KnujOn research was to demonstrate the relationships between compliance failure, illicit product traffic, and spam. The report demonstrated that out of 900 ICANN accredited Registrars fewer than 20 held 90% of the web domains advertised in spam. These same Registrars we also most frequently cited by KnujOn as failing to resolve complaints made through the Whois Data Problem Reporting System (WDPRS). The 10 Registrars cited were Xin Net, Beijing Networks, Todaynic, Joker, eNom, Monkier, Dynamic Dolphin, The Nameit Co, Directi, and Intercosmos. Two of these Registrars were later issued additional Breach Notices were sent to Joker and Beijing Innovative Linkage Technology Ltd.

On June 26, 2008 the ICANN Board approved the new gTLD program. This program would allow organizations, groups and individuals to register Internet addresses outside of the existing TLD rules. The proposed new top level domain names will expand to include common words such as .banks for all financial institutions, and so on. They will also open up to other languages that don't rely on Roman characters, such as Arabic or Chinese.[15]

On June 27, 2008 the NYTreported that the official sites of ICANN and IANA had been defaced by Turkish hackers the prior day.

In July 2008 the U.S. Department of Commerce reiterated an earlier statement[7] that it has no plans to transition management of the authoritative root zone file to ICANN. The letter also stresses the separate roles of the IANA and VeriSign.[16]

On October 1, 2008 ICANN issued Breach Notices against Joker and Beijing Innovative Linkage Technology Ltd. [17] after further researching reports and complaints issued by KnujOn. These notices gave the Registrars given 15 days to fix their Whois investigation efforts.

[edit] Arguments

[edit] Governance issues

In the Memorandum of Understanding that set up the relationship between ICANN and the U.S. government, ICANN was given a mandate requiring that it operate "in a bottom up, consensus driven, democratic manner." However, the attempts that ICANN have made to set up an organizational structure that would allow wide input from the global Internet community did not produce results amenable to the current Board. As a result, the At-Large constituency and direct election of board members by the global Internet community were soon abandoned.

It is argued that ICANN was never given the authority to decide policy (i.e. choose new TLDs or shut out other interested parties who refuse to pay ICANN's US$185,000 fee), but was to be a technical caretaker. Critics suggest that ICANN should not be allowed to impose business rules on market participants, and that all TLDs should be added on a first-come-first-served basis and the market should be the arbiter of who succeeds and who does not.[citation needed]

A member of the European Parliament, William Newton-Dunn, has recently been addressing questions to the European Commission which asks whether ICANN is engaging in restraint of European free trade laws by imposing restrictions on who can operate a TLD and sell domain names. [18] Some restrictions are considered insurmountable by many small business owners and individuals, such as the perhaps-partially-refundable $185,000 application fee.

[edit] Alternatives

Alternatives to ICANN have been suggested for managing the DNS namespace and the address space, including:

  • Letting the U.S. government perform ICANN's tasks directly
  • Assigning ICANN's tasks to the International Telecommunication Union
  • Turning ICANN into a new UN agency
  • Letting the Regional Internet Registries manage the addresses
  • Abandoning all control and letting the DNS name space be a free-for-all
  • Creating a new non-profit organization without any links to the current interested parties

As of June 2008, none of these proposals had enough political support to be considered a viable alternative to the current processes. A number of private, for-profit firms are still trying to "seize the opportunity" of namespace development by creating new TLDs in alternative DNS roots.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Specifically, RFC 1591 uses the ISO 3166 standard as the authoritative list of country codes. .eu is not a country code, but is listed among the Exceptional Reservations.

[edit] References

  1. ^ ICANN-DOC JPA 09-29-2006
  2. ^ NZ Herald: NZer appointed 'Chairman of cyberspace' - 03 Nov 2007
  3. ^ Hannibal Travis, The Battle for Mindshare: the Emerging Consensus that the First Amendment Protects Corporate Criticism and Parody on the Internet, 10 Virginia Journal of Law and Technology 3, 32-34 (2005), http://www.vjolt.net/vol10/issue1/v10i1_a3-Travis.pdf
  4. ^ Geoff Huston (2003-10-17). "Wildcard entries in DNS entries". IAB. http://www.iab.org/documents/correspondence/2003-10-17-crocker-wildcards.html. Retrieved on 2008-06-23. 
  5. ^ "ICANN imposes $2 internet tax". The Register. March 31, 2005. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/03/31/icann_2buck_fee. 
  6. ^ "U.N. Summit to Focus on Internet". Washington Post. December 5, 2003. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A36852-2003Dec4?language=printer. 
  7. ^ a b "Bush administration annexes internet". The Register. July 1, 2005. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/01/bush_net_policy/. 
  8. ^ "Power grab could split the net". CNET. October 3, 2005. http://news.com.com/2010-1071_3-5886556.html. 
  9. ^ ICANN announcement [1], retrieved November 1, 2006
  10. ^ CNET: Domain name price hikes come under fire
  11. ^ "United States cedes control of the internet - but what now?". The Register. July 27, 2006. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/27/ntia_icann_meeting/. 
  12. ^ The Register, Burke Hansen Of ICANN and the Registerfly meltdown, March 3, 2007
  13. ^ "Worst Spam Offenders" Notified by ICANN [2]
  14. ^ Registrar Accreditation Agreement [3]
  15. ^ The Register, Cade MetzICANN approves customized top-level domains, June 26, 2008
  16. ^ "U.S. DoC letter to ICANN's Chairman". 2008-07-30. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/comments/2008/ICANN_080730.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-03. 
  17. ^ Breach Notices Sent to Joker.com and DNS.com.cn [4]
  18. ^ Question no 78 by Bill Newton Dunn (H-0126/07 ) Subject: ICANN's levy from price increases imposed on Europeans

[edit] Other sources

[edit] External links

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