FREEDOM AND SAFETY
Saturday, October 1, marked a historic day for the internet. The U.S. government finally handed over control of the world wide web’s “phonebook” to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) after almost 20 years of transition. The ICANN, a nonprofit organization composed of stakeholders from government organizations, members of private companies, and internet users from all over the world, now has direct control over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that manages the web’s domain name system (DNS).
Prior to the handover, ICANN already managed IANA, but the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the U.S. National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), had ultimate authority over any decisions that ICANN made. This meant that the U.S. government could overrule any resolution made by the latter.
In a press release, ICANN Board Chair Stephen D. Crocker said, “This transition was envisioned 18 years ago, yet it was the tireless work of the global Internet community, which drafted the final proposal, that made this a reality. This community validated the multistakeholder model of Internet governance. It has shown that a governance model defined by the inclusion of all voices, including business, academics, technical experts, civil society, governments and many others is the best way to assure that the internet of tomorrow remains as free, open and accessible as the internet of today.”
The move has heavy political implications since the internet’s registry system is no longer under U.S. government control. Because the web has become a critical structure for governments worldwide, many countries, each with vested interests, feel that other nations could attempt to influence how it develops. That is why the termination of the U.S. government’s direct involvement with the IANA puts everyone at ease.
Nothing will change for the average internet user, as things will still be run as they were, except that users can influence how cyberspace develops from now on (as opposed to their often out-of-touch government representatives).