As a technical coordinating body, ICANN’s mandate is not to “run the Internet.” Rather, it is to oversee the management of only those specific technical managerial and policy development tasks that require central coordination: the assignment of the Internet’s unique name and number identifiers.
ICANN Fact Sheet, 2003.
Up until 1998, the technical infrastructure of the Internet had been run by US Government agencies, such as DARPA and the National Science Foundation. However, as the Internet began to grow into a world wide resource, the US Government began to look for a way to transfer these administration functions to the private sector. To achieve this goal, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on November 25, 1998.
ICANN describes their goal as being to “preserve the central coordinating functions of the global Internet for the public good.” The ICANN has responsibility for the assignment of Internet protocol parameters, oversight of the domain name system, allocation of IP addresses, and management of the root server system.
ICANN is comprised of three Supporting Organizations (SO’s):
- The Address Supporting Organization (ASO) manages the IP address space and its allocation to various organizations. The ASO is supported by three existing Regional Internet Registries, APNIC, ARIN, and RIPE NCC.
- The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (CCNSO) is a policy development body responsible for developing consensus positions and recommending global policies relating to country-code top-level domain names.
- The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GSO) advises the ICANN Board with respect to policy issues relating to the Domain Name System.
Each of these support organizations has the responsibility to name three Directors to the ICANN Board.
The following committees also support ICANN:
- The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) provides advice to ICANN from governments on issues of public policy, such as where there may be interaction between ICANN’s policies and national laws or international agreements.
- The ICANN At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) is responsible for providing advice to ICANN on issues that affect the interests of individual Internet users — the “At-Large” community.
The IANA also supports the ICANN in managing the assignment of Internet protocol parameters required to enable the Internet to operate in practice, and is supported by various organizations including the Internet Engineering Task Force, World Wide Web Consortium, International Telecommunications Union, and European Telecommunications Standards Institute.
The ICANN information page page provides more information on the structure and responsibilities of the organization. The ICANNWatch organization is an independent organization monitoring ICANN activities.