The Domain Name System
The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical naming system for computers, services, or any other resources connected to the Internet. See How the Domain Name System Works for a brief overview of the DNS. See Pre-ICANN History of the DNS for the development of the DNS in the 20th century.
- Distributed Database: an archive of information about the computers in a network
- Name Servers: contain address information about other computers on the network
- Domain Name Resolvers do the work of translating domain names into numeric IP addresses based on the canonical database in the root zone.
- The DNS Root Zone is the network of database servers that maintain the names and the numeric IP addresses of over 1500 gTLDs, ccTLDs, and IDNs.
- Domains: logical groups of computers in a large network
- The DNS maintains a database of top-level domains (TLDs) that can be accessed via the Internet. Top-level domains fall into three broad categories:
- Registry operators maintain the database of registrations for a particular TLD.
- Registrars allow registrants to register a domain name.
Foundational Operating Documents
- RFC 1591 remains a core conceptual framework describing IANA's role in the delegation and oversight of top-level domains.
- The Affirmation of Commitments forms the basis for much of ICANN's mission and operational mandate to maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the DNS.
Ensuring the resiliency, stability, and security of the DNS is critical to perpetuating the usefulness of the Internet. The DNS has two key types of vulnerabilities: complexity and bad actors.
- Cybersecurity experts are concerned about the DNS Camel, which refers to the inexorable growth of DNS protocols over the past three decades, making it increasingly difficult to implement and secure DNS advancements.
- As the number and kind of TLDs continue to expand, Universal Acceptance becomes an increasingly important topic.
- Internet governance organizations, registries, registrars, and the business constituency are very concerned about DNS Abuse, which refers to the exploitation of the DNS for malicious purposes. In particular, a debate rages over where technical abuse ends and where content abuse begins.
ICANN exists to "facilitate the openness, interoperability, resilience, security and/or stability" of the Domain Name System (DNS). Although ICANN as a whole is dedicated to the mission of preserving an open, interoperable, resilient, secure, and stable DNS, specific committees, organizations, and entities are directly focused on the technical operation of the DNS:
- Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
- Root Server System Advisory Committee
- Many of the New gTLD Program panels perform evaluations of the impact of proposed new gTLD strings on the DNS.
- Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams
- Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) - a large, open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet's architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet.
- Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) - the technical management group of the IETF
- Internet Governance Forum (IGF) - United Nations forum, providing a platform for stakeholders from industry, government, and civil society to discuss issues related to Internet governance.
- Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) - focused, long-term research groups on the evolution of Internet protocols, applications, architecture and technology.