Study Guide

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was formed as a non-governmental organization to control all aspects of Internet registration. As such, it delegates the power to assign IPs, as well as register Domain Names, to various companies. However, given the amazing amount of power ICANN wields over the Internet, there have been many concerns over its role and actions as the sole arbiter of Internet IP and DNS information. Although originally hailed as a way to free the Internet from governmental control, ICANN has raised many more issues than it has put to rest.

The first problem that arises with ICANN is that of free speech. ICANN has established committees to determine whether a domain name is appropriate. This has drawn fire from many Civil Liberties groups (notably the ACLU) who call into question its control over what is seen as a form of speech. Which leads to the question, is it right for an organization, such as ICANN, to control what domain names may be purchased and used?

This becomes more of a problem due to ICANN's organization. Originally designed as a democratic system, ICANN's decisions were meant to be carried out by a combination of an elected board of directors and an at-large membership. However, many groups have argued that ICANN steps around these democratic processes and instead hands down decisions from a panel of unelected directors. Should an organization as vital to the Internet, at its essence an uncontrollable and democratic medium, as ICANN be allowed to makes its decisions in such a manner?

Recently, ICANN has release a flurry of new proposals for top level domains. This would serve to segregate the internet in various ways mostly grouped by the common .com today. Is it right to split these up? And who decides what domain a site should go in?

And then the problem of anti-competitiveness rears its ugly head. Even though ICANN was meant to replace the domination of Network Solutions, Inc., in many ways, the same monopolistic tendencies remain: specifically, the control of the system through just one organization. This was confirmed again recently with the .com control controversially given to Verisign.