Statements that the United States is giving up control of the internet has created confusion and even panic.
The United States announced that it is giving up its role as the guardian of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Currently ICANN assigns domain names and internet addresses as an independent non-profit organization on behalf of the United States Department of Commerce.
No need for panic
The transition of the management of internet names and numbers from a government agency to a private agency has been an evolution over three decades.
Before ICANN was created the United States government controlled the domain name system that organizes the internet.
In the 1990s as the internet was transitioning from government control to commercialization ICANN was created to take over the tasks of managing internet names and numbers used in managing internet traffic.
The Pew Research Center reported on Thursday that people from all over the world will gather in Singapore this weekend to discuss the future of ICANN.
The contract between the Department of Commerce and ICANN doesn't expire until September 2015. There is a lot than can happen in the year ahead to shape the future of ICANN.
As far as the United States giving up control, ICANN already is an international organization. The Pew Research Center states in their article that most of the current ICANN board members are not American, and the CEO is Egyptian.
An analogy to understand what ICANN does
ICANN controls the internet in the same sense that the Department of Motor Vehicles controls the highways.
ICANN regulates domain names and internet addressing. The Department of Motor Vehicles issues the drivers licenses and vehicle registrations.
If you did not have a drivers license, and owned a motor vehicle, you could still possibly drive on a public highway. It would be risky, but it would be possible. You could own a vehicle that you only used on private property.
The technology that drives the internet exists independently of ICANN or any government agency.
In the same sense that the DMV does not design automobiles, or oversee the innovations of transportation, ICANN has little to do with the actual technology used on the internet.
The technology that drives the internet is very complex, and owned by many large publicly owned companies, not government agencies.
How do you regulate chaos?
The concept on which the internet was conceived was to create a network where no single entity had complete control over it. It was designed to survive the next world war. In a world of chaos, if no one is in charge, the system, in this case the internet, is unaffected.
People comment they want the internet to be open and free, but when they hear that the United States is giving up control of an internet governing agency, they complain. Does that make sense?
Welcome to the world of internet regulation.
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