ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, manages the Domain Name System as well as several other databases required for the stability and security of the Internet.
In addition to maintenance, ICANN is also responsible for establishing much of the methodologies and standards used for Internet namespaces. Most notably, they are responsible for creating international standards for and introducing new top-level domains (the part of the domain name that comes after the last period, such as “.com”). ICANN is also responsible for managing country code top-level domain, such as “.uk” and “.ca”, as well as creating policies regarding IP addresses.
In recent years, ICANN has come under fire for the explosion of top-level domains, particularly controversial TDLs such as “.xxx” and “.sucks” which many businesses view as exploitive, since they feel they must register their trademark with those TDLs in order to protect their brand. However, ICANN argues that the new TDLs provide a better way to organize websites and for consumers to more easily identify the business they are looking for. For example, if you need someone to fix a clogged drain, you can be certain that a site ending in “.plumber” is the kind of business you’re looking for.
Also See: DNS, Domain Name, Name Server
Frequently Asked Questions
Who runs ICANN?
Until recently, the California-based organization was overseen by U.S. Department of Commerce; however, it has since transitioned to a multistakeholder governance model, providing a greater degree of international oversite while allowing stakeholders from all over the world to have a say in future developments and initiatives. ICANN has a government advisory committee consisting of representatives from over 110 countries.
Is ICANN the only group that can assign domain names?
Since ICANN manages the DNS system, they have final say over naming methodologies and new top-level domains; however, the actual assigning of domain names is handled by domain name registrars. These are companies that sell domain names to individuals or companies, and then register those domain names with DNS. ICANN does, however, determine what top-level domains are available. For instance, if you wanted to launch a website for your budding freelance ninja business, you might consider the address: www.BobforHire.ninja. Before you could register that address, you would first have to make sure “.ninja” is an approved TLD. If not, you could suggest the TLD to ICANN for future implementation, but there is no guarantee it will be accepted or how many years that might take. Thankfully, .ninja is an approved TLD…so go get it!