Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, http://www.icann.org) is the non-profit organization, which was chosen to take charge of the privatization of the administration of the Internet. Their role would be to implement policy to help transition the domain name system into the private sector. Overall, the implementation of ICANN would create an explosion in the number of new TLDs.

In the last week of November 1998, ICANN released new versions of the bylaws pertaining to the board of directors. The revisions worked to make the proceedings of the board more open to the public. They also redistributed the benefits of board decisions so that they are directed toward high-tech parties different than those proposed. The revisions also redirected the ICANN funding responsibility to other parties.

One of ICANN's primary functions is the supervision of the DNS registry system. Recently, ICANN set formal requirements for registrar applicants:

1. Registrars must have $100,000 in liquid assets and $500,000 in liability insurance. This low financial threshold allows smaller companies to bid for the registrar position.

2. Registrar companies must have a global reach.

3. Registrar companies must demonstrate proficiency in the registration business.

New guidelines set by ICANN also allow domain name holders to change registrars without penalty. Currently, ICANN is in the process of selecting five companies for the trial shared registry, which is scheduled to begin in mid-April of 1999.

In December 1998, ICANN published its formal guidelines for "supporting organizations" (SOs) which will aid ICANN in administering basic Internet functions, including maintenance of specific parts of the domain name system, as well as root server functions for the Internet. These functions were previously under the control of the US Commerce Department. According to ICANN Chairman Michael Roberts, each SO was envisioned to be a group of working professionals providing ICANN with technical policy development recommendations. This role is less powerful than IANA's (the creator of ICANN itself) original intention that the SOs directly influence many ICANN decision-making policies. Parties interested in becoming SOs would submit an application to ICANN, which would review applications at its meeting in the spring of 1999. Some groups have lamented the loss of SO power under the new guidelines, since they hoped the SO Internet businesses would get a bigger voice in ICANN decisions. However, dissenters must also be reminded that the ICANN board is given the power to choose the SOs in the first place, inevitably creating a less-than-democratic membership.

In the first week of March 1999, ICANN further augmented its committee with the creation of the Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) which will control the root server for the DNS system. Membership in DNSO will include ccTLD registries, gTLD registries, businesses, Internet providers, non-commercial domain-name holders and representatives from special interest groups. The organization will be governed by a strict set of rules that will prevent companies from gaining unfair advantage in the registrar business. Though specific details of DNSO have not been finalized, ICANN has determined some fundamentals of DNSO's contruction. First, DNSO will serve as an advisory group to ICANN, recommending policies for DNS. Secondly, the DNSO will select 3 of ICANN's 19 directors. More extensive descriptions of DNSO's functions will be based on proposals submitted to ICANN. Currently, two proposals are beng considered: one with support from NSI, and the other supported by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).