Special Training

Who is ICANN and its role

Who is ICANN ?
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit organization that is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.ICANN performs the actual technical maintenance work of the central Internet address pools and DNS root zone registries pursuant to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function contract.

What is ICANN’s role ?
As mentioned earlier, ICANN’s role is to oversee the huge and complex interconnected network of unique identifiers that allow computers on the Internet to find one another.
This is commonly termed “universal resolvability” and means that wherever you are on the network – and hence the world – that you receive the same predictable results when you access the network. Without this, you could end up with an Internet that worked entirely differently depending on your location on the globe.

How is ICANN structured ?
ICANN is made up of a number of different groups, each of which represent a different interest on the Internet and all of which contribute to any final decisions that ICANN’s makes.
There are three “supporting organisations” that represent:
The organisations that deal with IP addresses
The organisations that deal with domain names
The managers of country code top-level domains (a special exception as explained at the bottom).
Then there are four “advisory committees” that provide ICANN with advice and recommendations. These represent:

Governments and international treaty organisations
Root server operators
Those concerned with the Internet’s security
The “at large” community, meaning average Internet users.
And finally, there is a Technical Liaison Group, which works with the organisations that devise the basic protocols for Internet technologies.
ICANN’s final decisions are made by a Board of Directors. The Board is made up of 21 members: 15 of which have voting rights and six are non-voting liaisons. The majority of the voting members (eight of them) are chosen by an independent Nominating Committee and the remainder are nominated members from supporting organisations.
ICANN then has a President and CEO who is also a Board member and who directs the work of ICANN staff, who are based across the globe and help co-ordinate, manage and finally implement all the different discussions and decisions made by the supporting organisations and advisory committees. An ICANN Ombudsman acts as an independent reviewer of the work of the ICANN staff and Board.

How does ICANN make decisions ?
When it comes to making technical changes to the Internet, here is a simplified rundown of the process:
Any issue of concern or suggested changes to the existing network is typically raised within one of the supporting organisations (often following a report by one of the advisory committees), where it is discussed and a report produced which is then put out for public review. If the suggested changes impact on any other group within ICANN’s system, that group also reviews the suggested changes and makes its views known. The result is then put out for public review a second time.
At the end of that process, the ICANN Board is provided with a report outlining all the previous discussions and with a list of recommendations. The Board then discusses the matter and either approves the changes, approves some and rejects others, rejects all of them, or sends the issue back down to one of the supporting organisations to review, often with an explanation as to what the problems are that need to be resolved before it can be approved.
The process is then rerun until all the different parts of ICANN can agree a compromise or the Board of Directors make a decision on a report it is presented with.