Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN for short ) coordinates the assignment of unique names and addresses on the Internet . This includes the coordination of the Domain Name System and the allocation of IP addresses , which is also known as the "IANA function" (derived from Internet Assigned Numbers Authority ). ICANN has its headquarters in Los Angeles and is registered in California as a non-profit organization .


Office building with ICANN headquarters in Marina del Rey (until 2012)
ICANN headquarters in Playa Vista (since 2012)

Transfer of the IANA function to ICANN

The IANA function for assigning names and addresses in the Arpanet and later on the Internet was originally assigned to the US computer scientist Jon Postel , who was commissioned by DARPA , a research agency of the US armed forces. When the funding programs of DARPA and the NSF Research Foundation came to an end in the 1990s, the Internet developed from a network for universities and the military to a commercial computer network. The responsibility for overseeing the exercise of the IANA function passed from DARPA to the United States' national telecommunications authority, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the United States Department of Commerce .

In February 1998, the NTIA proposed in a "Green Paper" the establishment of a new non-profit organization that should be entrusted with the IANA function. On June 5, 1998, the NTIA stated in a "white paper" that the US federal government was ready to recognize such an organization and to entrust it with the IANA function and other tasks.

In October 1998 ICANN was founded in Marina del Rey , California . Michael M. Roberts became the first chief executive officer and Esther Dyson became the chairman of the board. Jon Postel was supposed to continue his work for the IANA function as Chief Technical Officer , but he passed away that same month.

Originally, ICANN was to be run by a 19-member Board of Directors , nine of which were elected by the public. After the board had initially been filled internally on a temporary basis, an online direct election for five directorships took place in 2000, one per continent. Three of the elected directors were said to be close to ICANN at the time, while Andy Müller-Maguhn for Europe and Karl Auerbach for North America were two critics. A conflict broke out in 2002, and Auerbach prevailed in a superior court in California on a lawsuit for access to the books. In the same year a new statute was decided in which the ICANN was restructured. Direct public elections were abolished and the term of office of the five public representatives ended at the end of 2003.

The further development

ICANN has gradually developed the system of generic top-level domains (gTLD). Seven new gTLDs were approved in 2000: .aero , .biz , .coop , .info , .museum , .name , .pro . Seven more followed in 2004: .asia , .cat , .jobs , .mobi , .post , .tel , .travel .

Since July 2010, support root name servers of the domain name system security extension DNSSEC .

In February 2011, ICANN assigned the last free IPv4 address blocks to the Regional Internet Registries and referred to IPv6 , where enough free addresses are available.

In June 2011 ICANN decided to conduct an open, fee-based application process for the introduction of new generic top-level domains . During the official application period from January 12 to April 20, 2012, 1,930 applications were submitted. The gradual introduction of the first new gTLDs began on October 23, 2013.

In June 2012, the ICANN moved into a new headquarters in the district of Playa Vista in Los Angeles , a few kilometers from the old location in Marina del Rey away.

Loss of government supervision since 2016

The future of ICANN has been discussed for a long time. The contract between the US federal government and ICANN, which expired in September 2016, provided an occasion to fundamentally rethink the performance of the IANA function and, if necessary, to transfer it to new hands.

In March 2014, the NTIA announced that it would give up supervision of ICANN when the contract expired - but only if other governments also stayed out of control of ICANN. A proposal on this should be submitted to the NTIA by summer 2015 at the latest. Consideration was also given to locating the IANA function at the United Nations .

In March 2016, however, at their 55th meeting in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, the ICANN committees agreed on a model for the continuation of their tasks, the administration of the central root zone and other central databases, without the supervision of the US government. The IANA function should therefore be monitored by the self-governing bodies of ICANN themselves. The examination by the NTIA and the deliberations in the US Congress followed - against the backdrop of the outgoing Obama administration and before the presidential elections in November 2016 . The approval was seen in connection with efforts by the US side to appear more conciliatory towards other states in the wake of the Snowden affair .

On September 29, 2016, shortly before the contract expired , the four US states of Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and Nevada, which were dominated by the Republican Party , attempted to stop the privatization of the central root zone with the help of an application for an injunction. To do this, they called the Federal District Court in Galveston, Texas. However, the application was rejected, so that the US federal government's oversight of ICANN expired on September 30, as planned.


For the Internet to work, certain names and addresses must be unique worldwide. Therefore ICANN assigns these names and addresses either directly to inquiring persons and organizations, or in larger blocks to regional organizations that regulate the transfer. The tasks of ICANN include the implementation of the IANA function, which includes the following:

In addition, ICANN coordinates the operation of the root name servers and operates one of them itself. The administration of the DNSSEC key for the root zone is also part of the job.

As it sees itself, ICANN works on a basis-oriented (“bottom up”), consensus-driven (“consensus-driven”) and with the involvement of various interest groups (“multi-stakeholder model”).

Legal status

As a civil law non-profit organization, ICANN has no state powers. Cooperation with other organizations, such as registries, is therefore regulated by civil law contracts. With headquarters in California, ICANN is subject to US law.

The US government legitimizes ICANN through various agreements and the contract to carry out the IANA function. Since October 1, 2009, a joint "Declaration of Binding Agreements" (Affirmation of Commitments) has replaced the previous Agreement (Joint Project Agreement, JPA), with which representatives of the governments and affected interest groups should regularly check whether ICANN is fulfilling its duties in accordance with its statutes. Government representatives from all states have the opportunity to participate in ICANN activities in an advisory capacity through the Governmental Advisory Committee (see the Organization section ).

The IANA contract is unaffected. This specifies the requirements and tasks of the IANA function. For example, ICANN is not allowed to make changes to the top-level domains in the root zone without authorization , but has to give them to the NTIA for approval, which in turn authorizes Verisign as the operator of the "A" root name server to implement the change . Since the first commissioning in 2000, the NTIA has renewed the temporary contract regularly, most recently for the period October 2012 to September 2015, with the option to extend it until September 2019. The NTIA reserves the right to assign the contract to someone else after the contract expires .


The ICANN consists of different organs, whose tasks are defined in the statutes of the ICANN. The central body is the Board of Directors , which consists of 21 members, 16 of whom are entitled to vote. In November 2013, Wolfgang Kleinwächter , a renowned German academic, was elected to the board. Eight board members with voting rights are elected by a nomination committee and seven by the ICANN bodies ASO, ccNSO, GNSO and ALAC. The statutes provide for geographical and cultural diversity in the selection of members. These 15 members elect a candidate for the position of President and CEO who also becomes a voting member of the Board. Five other board members without voting rights are nominated by advisory bodies. The board appoints a chairman and a deputy from the existing members. The state governments are involved in the self-administration of ICANN on an equal footing with other "stakeholders". In Germany, the parliaments are not involved.

From 2003 to 2009, Paul Twomey was President and CEO. He was succeeded by Rod Beckstrom, who let his contract expire in June 2012. From September 2012 to March 2016, Fadi Chehadé was President and CEO of ICANN, who was replaced by Göran Marby in May 2016. The committee is chaired by Steve Crocker , who succeeded Peter Dengate Thrush in 2011.

Address Supporting Organization

The Address Supporting Organization (ASO) represents the interests of the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), which are responsible for assigning IP address blocks . Since October 2004 the tasks of the ASO are carried out by the external Number Resource Organization , which was founded by the RIRs. The fact is more of a formal nature, in fact the RIRs have been involved in the development of guidelines for address allocation since ICANN was founded and have voting rights on the board of directors.

Country Code Names Supporting Organization

The operators of country-specific top-level domains (ccTLD) such as .at , .ch , .de or .lu are represented in the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) . ICANN does not specify the list of two-letter abbreviations itself, but takes it from ISO 3166 . However, internationalized ccTLDs have been added, i.e. country codes in the respective written language, for example . Zum as an alternative to .cn . Since the NTIA does not maintain any contracts with states or state-authorized ccTLD operators, the ccNSO acts as a mouthpiece between them.

The operators of ccTLDs are free to apply their own guidelines when assigning domain names. A consensus in ICANN is not necessary for this. As early as 1998, the NTIA granted other states the authority to draw up ccTLD guidelines in the "White Paper": "Of course, national governments now have, and will continue to have, authority to manage or establish policy for their own ccTLDs."

Generic Name Supporting Organization

The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) develops guidelines and recommendations for generic top-level domains (gTLD) such as .com , .info , .museum or .net . It consists of sub-groups to represent the interests of commercial and non-commercial registrants and internet users, registrars and registries . The GNSO develops guidelines to promote free competition in gTLDs, to resolve name disputes or to regulate the handling of expired domain registrations. Clarifying legal and organizational issues when introducing new gTLDs is also the responsibility of the GNSO.

In contrast to ccTLDs, gTLDs are subject to stricter regulation by ICANN. Companies that want to offer domain registrations under a gTLD must either be accredited as a registrar by ICANN for a fee or become a reseller of an accredited registrar.

Advisory Committees

In addition, ICANN consists of various advisory boards, which mainly have an advisory function. Most advisory boards are represented on the Board of Directors without voting rights. This includes the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), in which government representatives from over 100 countries participate.

The At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) sees itself as the voice of the individual user, although only interest groups and user groups can join. Over 200 groups take part, including the German Association for Data Protection , digitalcourage (formerly FoeBuD), the Humanist Union , Load, Wikimedia Austria and Wikimedia CH. Originally in a purely advisory role, the ALAC has also had a voting member on the Board of Directors since an amendment to the Articles of Association in October 2010.

The Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) and the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) make recommendations to the board regarding security and technical risks. The SSAC publishes reports on specific issues in which it advises against introducing internationalized top-level domains with just one character, or using top-level domains as dot-free domain names in the form of http://example.

Two further advisory boards represent interfaces to other organizations. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) develops technical Internet standards that are used by ICANN or taken into account in its guidelines, for example DNSSEC, Whois or the Internet Protocol . The Technical Liaison Group (TLG) includes representatives from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute , ITU-T , the World Wide Web Consortium and the Internet Architecture Board .


ICANN is financed from fees it levies from gTLD registries and gTLD registrars , ccTLD registries and regional internet registries . A small portion of the revenue comes from sponsorship by companies advertising at ICANN meetings. For fiscal year 2012, revenue of US $ 90 million was projected in June of the same year. US $ 71 million is from normal ICANN activities and US $ 19 million is the first portion of application income for new gTLDs. The NTIA does not plan to pay for the IANA function .

In the early days, when the financing structure was not yet in place, ICANN received loans and donations from various communication companies. The Markle Foundation granted a grant of US $ 200,000.

New domains

With the introduction of new generic top-level domains, ICANN became known to a wider public. After the first test runs were carried out in 2000 and 2004, the organization prepared the introduction of thousands of new extensions such as .blog or .web in 2012, which are expected for mid-2013. ICANN charged a fee of $ 185,000 for each application, plus additional income if a domain was actually approved. Overall, ICANN has earned several million through the so-called "New gTLD" program.


For ICANN, critics coined the term world government of the Internet , for example Detlef Borchers headlined an online article in the NZZ in June 2000 : “I can, you can. World government of tomorrow or global incompetence? ”ICANN itself does not use this term and limits its presentation to the coordination and administration of technical parameters.

The management of the root name server has been criticized from various quarters and there are some operators of alternative root zones. In particular, the dependence on the US government is a frequently mentioned point of criticism. ICANN decides to whom to entrust the administration of a country-specific TLD. As part of the Afghan war, the administration of the Afghan TLD .af was suspended until a new government came to power. The North Korean TLD .kp was not put into operation for three years with reference to formal errors. The operators of the Iraqi TLD .iq were arrested shortly after the TLD went into operation in 2002 and sentenced to several years imprisonment for violating the US foreign trade law and for supporting a member of Hamas . The TLD remained inactive until management was handed over to the transitional government in 2005. The Open Root Server Network (ORSN) is an alternative root name server network with the aim of reducing the influence of ICANN on the root zone and thus the domain name system . ORSN was active with mainly European servers from 2002 to 2008 and has been in operation again since 2013. The root zone is copied from the ICANN servers and changes are viewed manually; no separate TLDs were used.

One point of criticism expressed in the past, including by ORSN, was that 9 of the 13 root name servers were located in the USA, which could endanger the stability for users from other countries. However, with the widespread introduction of anycast , the locations are now spread around the world.

The Watchblog reported since 1999 critical of the developments and decisions of ICANN. However, there have been no new articles since 2010.

See also


  • Jana Gernroth: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the administration of the Internet . Universitätsverlag Ilmenau, Ilmenau 2008, ISBN 978-3-939473-28-2 ( PDF; 1.49 MB ).
  • Matthias Hartwig: ICANN - Governance by Technical Necessity . In: Armin von Bogdandy, Rüdiger Wolfrum, Jochen von Bernstorff, Philipp Dann and Matthias Goldmann (eds.): The Exercise of Public Authority by International Institutions: International Institutional Law . Springer Verlag, Heidelberg, Dordrecht, London, New York 2010, ISBN 978-3-642-04530-1 , pp. 575-605 .
  • Ingrid Hamm, Marcel Machill (Ed.): Who rules the Internet? ICANN as a case study for global internet governance . Bertelsmann Stiftung publishing house, Gütersloh 2001.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ NTIA: Improvement of Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses , published in the Federal Register on February 20, 1998. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
  2. ^ Katherine Guckenberger, John F. Kennedy School of Government : ICANN: An Experiment in Global Co-regulation. In: Who Rules the Internet? ICANN as a case study for Global Internet Governance (PDF; 2.1 MB), Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh 2001. Page 165
  3. Available Pool of Unallocated IPv4 Internet Addresses Now Completely Emptied (PDF; 44 kB), February 3, 2011. Accessed January 5, 2017.
  4. Oliver Schwab: New top-level domains: ICANN opens the application phase. In: united-domains blog. January 11, 2012, accessed November 12, 2012 .
  5. Lennart Schmid: ICANN extends the application deadline for new top-level domains. In: united-domains blog. April 12, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2012 .
  6. The new domain extensions. (PDF; 124 kB) united-domains , October 17, 2012, accessed on January 24, 2013 .
  7. Fridtjof Küchemann: network management Icann America waives control . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . March 17, 2014, ISSN  0174-4909 ( [accessed April 1, 2016]).
  8. a b Icann: The pitfalls of freedom - In: December 10, 2014, accessed April 1, 2016 .
  9. Wolfgang Kleinwächter: Will the US government hand over the supervision of the Internet root? In: Telepolis. January 20, 2015, accessed on April 1, 2016 (incorrectly the date on which the contract between the American government and ICANN would expire; this would be September 2016).
  10. heise online: Internet administration: ICANN agrees on IANA handover - it is the US government's turn. In: heise online. March 11, 2016, accessed April 1, 2016 (German).
  11. a b Monika Ermert: Internet administration: Four US states want to stop the IANA handover by filing a lawsuit. In: heise online. September 29, 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2016 .
  12. a b Monika Ermert: Last Formal Tie To Historic US Internet Control Is Cut. In: Intellectual Property Watch. October 1, 2016, accessed October 3, 2016 .
  13. ^ Four States Sue to Delay IANA Transition. In: September 29, 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2016 .
  14. a b Monika Ermert: Analysis: USA gives up its guardian role in the DNS. In: heise online. September 2, 2016, accessed October 3, 2016 .
  15. ICANN: Welcome to ICANN! Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  16. heise online: New era for Internet administration
  17. NTIA: IANA Functions Contract (PDF; 879 kB), July 2, 2012. Accessed January 5, 2017.
  18. ^ ICANN Address Supporting Organization (ASO) MoU , October 21, 2004. Accessed January 5, 2017.
  19. ^ NTIA: Management of Internet Names and Addresses , published in the Federal Register on June 5, 1998. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  20. Milestone: The Number of At-Large Structures Reaches 200 ( English ) ICANN. June 23, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  21. ^ Bylaws for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers , October 28, 2010. Compare with version of August 5, 2010 . Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  22. ^ SSAC Reports and Advisories . Here: SAC 045 ; Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  23. Draft for the FY13 Operating Plan and Budget (PDF; 5.4 MB), June 24, 2012. Page 6. Accessed January 5, 2017.
  24. ^ Financial and Related Documents . Retrieved October 28, 2012.
  25. Falk Hedemann: Individual top-level domains for companies, cities and organizations. (No longer available online.) In: t3n magazine. December 6, 2010, archived from the original on August 20, 2012 ; Retrieved July 7, 2012 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. Detlef Borchers: I can, you can. World government of tomorrow or global incompetence? ( Memento of February 5, 2003 in the Internet Archive ), June 30, 2000. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
  27. ↑ Question of Power - Who Controls the Internet? In: c't , 5/2010