|Industry:||Internet Protocol Management|
|Headquarters:||12025 Waterfront Drive, Suite 300 |
Los Angeles, CA 90094-2536 USA
|Revenue:||$217 million (2015)|
|Sally Costerton, Interim CEO and President|
ICANN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is a global multi-stakeholder organization that was created by the U.S. government and its Department of Commerce. It coordinates the Internet DNS, IP addresses, and autonomous system numbers and involves the continued management of these evolving systems and the protocols that underlie them.
While ICANN began in the U.S. government, it is now and continues to be, an international, community-driven organization independent of any one government. ICANN's management of an interoperable Internet covers over 330 million domain names, the allocation of more than 4 billion network addresses, and the support of approximately 95 million DNS look-ups every day across 240 countries.
ICANN collaborates with a variety of stakeholders including companies, individuals, and governments to ensure the continued success of the Internet. It holds meetings three times a year, switching the international location for each meeting; one of these serves as the annual general meeting, during which the new ICANN Board members take their seats.
History: The Beginning
On July 1, 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton directed the Secretary of Commerce to privatize the management of the DNS, which had been managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other U.S. research agencies. The goals were to open the Internet to greater international participation and bolster it as a new medium of commercial competition and exchange.
On July 2, the Department of Commerce requested public input regarding DNS administration and structure, policy input regarding new registrars, the creation of new TLDs, and concerns regarding trademarks. More than 1,500 pages of comments were received.
In January 1998, an agency of the Department of Commerce (NTIA) issued what has become known as the "Green Paper." The document was a proposal that made clear that the agency intended to empower a non-profit entity to take control of the Internet and its DNS system. The proposal drew criticism from some American lawmakers and other concerned individuals who saw the American-fostered Internet about to be handed over to the IAHC, a Swiss entity. The revised "White Paper" addressed some of those concerns but still posited the need for an Internet organization which could respect and foster stability, competition, bottom-up coordination, and international representation, while also establishing appropriate protocol and administrative mechanisms. The "White Paper" did not clarify all of the divisive issues but instead called for the proposed entity to utilize its self-governance to decide on the issues at hand itself.
The Memorandum of Understanding
- Establish policy for and direct the allocation of IP number blocks;
- Oversee the operation of the authoritative root server system;
- Oversee the policy for determining the circumstances under which new TLDs would be added to the root system;
- Coordinate the assignment of other Internet technical parameters as needed to maintain universal connectivity on the Internet; and
- Oversee other activities necessary to coordinate the specified DNS management functions, as agreed by the Department of Commerce and ICANN.
Once again, these responsibilities would be undertaken and guided by the principles of stability, competition, private bottom-up coordination, and representation. The agreement established ICANN as an entity that would encourage transparency and create room for appeals for any binding decisions it would make. The Department of Commerce later noted that it was comfortable ceding its control to ICANN, as it seemed like the best step towards true privatization while still binding the authority of the institution to the American policies found within the MoU. The original agreement was set with an expiration of September 30th, 2000. The MoU has been amended several times.
ICANN's bottom-up focus and its periodic structural reviews lead to a revision of its bylaws and the introduction of new entities and policies. One such rush of changes happened in and around the year 2000, when the prospective changes and the discussions surrounding them spurned people to talk of "ICANN 2.0".
Registrar Accreditation Process
On February 8th, 1999, ICANN posted its Draft Guidelines for Registrar Accreditation for public commentary. The guidelines were formed through consultation with the DOC and NSI, and further tailored after the session of public commentary. Some issues raised during the period of public commentary include: concerns regarding the inherent bureaucracy, inadequate protections for intellectual property, and the reasoning behind accrediting registrars before the DNSO was constituted. The ICANN board accepted the revised Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy at their March, 1999 meeting in Singapore.
The initial policy called for registrars to provide secure access to the registry, be operationally capable of handling significant registration volume, maintain electronic transaction records, handle and provide prompt service to SLD requests, provide security, handle seamless transfers of customers who desire to switch registrars, employ an adequately sized staff, and have measures in place to protect the interests of their customers should the registrar fail. The registrar would also have to demonstrate that it had a sufficient liability insurance policy and store of liquid assets. A concern over creating and maintaining a valid registry service is evidenced in the requirement that information regarding each registrant of a SLD would have to be submitted by the registrar to NSI for inclusion in its registry. Providing a searchable Whois service was also required. Application fees for those applying to be included in the Phase 1 testbed cost $2,500, the general application fee was $1,000. Annual accreditation fees, amounting to $5,000, would also be assessed.
- IDN Committee is established, 2001.
- The approval of LACNIC as a RIR, 2002.
- Approval of RegistryPro's .pro TLD, 2002.
- Creation of Executive Search Committee, 2002.
- New TLD evaluation process began, 2002.
- The Board Governance Committee was created, 2003.
- The ccNSO was officially created, 2004.
- AfriNIC provisionally recognized as a RIR, 2004; officially recognized, 2005.
- Main article: gTLD
The discussion of creating new Generic Top-Level Domains has been around since the inception of ICANN; there was no set number fixed, and the fact that the .com extension has long been the most widely used and recognizable top-level domain was encouraged by ICANN's slow policy development process. It was underwritten in the 2001 amendments to their MoU with the U.S. Department of Commerce that ICANN was to "collaborate on the design, development and testing of a plan for creating a process that will consider the possible expansion of the number of gTLDs".
In 2000, a number of Working Groups that had been created the year before submitted reports on their take on the introduction of new TLDs; most notably, Working Group C called for a limited number of extensions to be introduced. The Board continued to move ahead with new TLD introduction, creating this application process. The task force that worked with the process helped .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro all become recognized extensions in 2000.
At the October 2003 meeting in Carthage, the Board passed its most significant resolution to date on fully opening the gTLD creation process. In it they recognized their obligation to develop new gTLDs in an effective, transparent, and stable manner, the overdue nature of a formal process for gTLD expansion, and the problems they faced when introducing the last round of extensions in 2000. Thus, they resolved to begin to dedicate significant resources to the issue and to establish a public forum in order to receive community input.
In 2003, important new sTLDs began being proposed. While these domains are different from gTLDs in that they are sponsored by a given constituency, this can be seen as another way in which the wider community was pressing for a greater variety of domain space. Applications came from .asia, .xxx, .net, .cat, .mobi, .jobs, and .travel.; they all went on to approval in 2005-2006, except for the controversial .xxx, which went through a much more contentious and drawn out process but was still approved in March, 2011 at ICANN 40.
- Main article: New gTLD Program
After the results of the 2000 and 2003 expansions of new gTLDs, a Policy Development Process in connection with the introduction of new gTLDs was developed by the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), which lasted from 2005 until 2007. During this Policy Development Process, the GNSO conducted extensive and detailed consultations with all constituencies within the ICANN global internet community. In 2008, 19 Specific Policy Recommendations were adopted by the ICANN Board for the implementation of new gTLDs, which describe the specifics of allocation and the contractual conditions. ICANN involved the global internet community in an open, inclusive and transparent implementation process to comment, review and provide their input toward creating the Applicant Guidebook for New gTLDs. The protection of intellectual property, community interests, consumer protection, and DNS stability were addressed during the process. Different versions and multiple drafts of the Applicant Guidebook were released in 2008. By June 2011, the ICANN Board launched the New gTLD Program, at the same time approving the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook. The Board announced the possibility of a 9th version of the Guidebook in January 2012, but the industry speculated that there was little chance that the changes would be more than clarification, as opposed to new rules and policies.
Second Round of Applications
On February 7, 2012, the ICANN Board approved the implementation of a second round and application window for the new gTLD program in response to the request of the global Internet community, particularly the members of CADNA. The board delegated the ICANN CEO to work with the Internet community to develop a work plan and the needed prerequisites to open the second round of applications for new gTLDs.
In September 2011, the ICANN Board approved resolutions to secure new office space for the organization. It is possible they will negotiate for more space at their current location, or that they find a new space at their headquarters of Marina Del Rey. It was also decided to begin permanently leasing its office space in Brussels instead of continuing to rent its space month-to-month. Much of its expansion is related to the new gTLD program. At the time of the board's decision, ICANN staff numbered 124, with 21 open positions to be filled. The 2012 budget includes $2.1 million for office space acquisition and maintenance for its offices in Marina Del Rey, Brussels, Sydney, Paolo Alto, and Washington D.C.. The Sydney office went on to be closed in 2012.
In February 2013, former CEO Fadi Chehadé announced that ICANN's office in L.A. would diminish in importance while two new "hubs" would be created to fill the gap and provide new means of outreach to ICANN's international constituents. The hubs are to be located in Singapore and Istanbul, and are to act with far more authority and purpose than a stand-alone office; it is clear that many senior staff from the L.A. office will be asked to move, and the CEO himself said he will be based in Singapore once that office is up and running. The news was announced during Mr. Chehadé's first comprehensive tour of Asia, with trips to South Korea, China, Japan, and Singapore. He noted that ICANN needed to apologize to Asia, as it had long not been given the attention it deserved within the organization.
As of 2017, ICANN has offices in Los Angeles, Singapore, Montevideo, and Brussels. It has engagement centers in Geneva, Beijing, Nairobi, and Washington, DC.
Time Zone Database
On October 14th, 2011, ICANN announced that it would take over the management of the Internet Time Zone Database, which contains the code and data that computer programs and operating systems rely on to determine a given location's correct time. It agreed to pick up this new responsibility after a request from IETF. Prior to this, the Time Zone Database was managed by a group of volunteers, namely its coordinator, Arthur David Olson at the US National Institutes of Health.
IANA Functions Stewardship Transition
- Main article: IANA Functions Stewardship Transition
In March 2014, NTIA released a statement saying that they are intent on transitioning their part of the IANA functions away from NTIA and to the global stakeholder community.  ICANN issued a press release supporting this shift. 
ICANN created a co-ordination group from nominations among 13 community stakeholder groups, totaling 27 individuals, which produced a draft transition document. On December 2, 2014, ICANN opened the public comment period on the draft transition document produced by the coordination group.
A New Approach to Africa
On August 10, 2012, ICANN, with the support of AfriNIC, announced an initiative to increase African participation in influence within ICANN. The initiative is the result of a meeting between Steve Crocker, Chairman of ICANN's Board of Directors, ICANN's CEO-Designate Fadi Chehadé, and Interim CEO Akram Atallah, with African community members at ICANN 44 in Prague, Czech Republic. Their goal is to develop a framework for ICANN's Africa strategy to be announced at ICANN 45 in Toronto, Canada. A working group was established, led by Nii Quaynor of Ghana, to contribute to the development of the strategy. The group is also to work with Tarek Kamel, Head of Governmental Affairs. The initiative has received strong support from African Internet stakeholders, including former Board Member Katim Touray. In March 2013, Fadi Chehadé, expressed his desire to raise the number of registrars in Africa from 5 to 25, via personal and business relations with the banking and insurance sectors that would allow the African companies to more easily meet some form of tailored ICANN accreditation. His hope is to accomplish this in just a few months, with something implemented around ICANN 47 in Durban, in July 2013
Main article: UDRP
On September 29th, 1999, ICANN posted the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy for public comments. The process aimed to address problems arising from cybersquatting and protect intellectual property rights. This process was not solely a concern or product of ICANN, given WIPO's earlier, and continued, effort on the UDRP. The policy asserts that it will transfer, delete, or asses other changes to any domain name held by a domainer which:
- Is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
- The domainer no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
- The domain name in question has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The same day, ICANN also issued the Rules for the UDRP, which set forth the procedure for filing and responding to complaints. This was also open for a period of public commentary. Some of the public comments can be found here.
Review and Transparency Development
Many of the other developments at ICANN have been accomplished through the introduction of review teams, such as the Committee on ICANN Evolution and Reform. The push for reform was also significantly aided by Stuart Lynn's "President's report: The Case for Reform," which was credited with starting the dialogue on reform and leading to the creation of a formal committee.
ICANN adopted a new set of by-laws, which were first laid out by the aforementioned Evolution and Reform Committee, before being revised in response to Public Forums. Those by-laws can be read here. The by-laws more clearly defined ICANN's mission and core values and improved apparatuses for review and greater transparency. The Reconsideration Committee, Independent Review Panel, and the Ombudsman all were strengthened as a part of this move towards a more transparent organization that is able to defend its actions and decisions.
ICANN Organizational Issues
It is central to ICANN's mission that the organization is structured in a way that welcomes a variety of voices and seeks to represent diverse constituencies with continued interest in the Internet's development, from registries, to corporations, to individual Internet users. In relation to ICANN's structural development, there have been critics who have taken issue with its closed-door sessions, the role of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and other structural and procedural rules. ICANN has been described as being in a contentious oversight situation, with some countries calling for all U.S. influence to be removed from the organization by subordinating it to the U.N.'s jurisdiction, or suggesting similar solutions. ICANN's structure and process are outlined in the ICANN Bylaws.
Board of Directors
- Main article: ICANN Board
ICANN is governed by a Board of Directors made up of 16 voting members (including ICANN's CEO) and four non-voting liaisons. From ICANN's inception to December 2011, being a board member was a voluntary position. At that time, the ICANN Board responded to mounting pressure regarding conflicts of interest and the notion that compensation would create a more professional and accountable body by awarding themselves a $35,000 annual salary.
- Main article: Ombudsman
The Ombudsman is required to offer independent, impartial, and neutral informal dispute resolution for those who want to lodge a complaint about ICANN staff, board, or supporting organizations. The independence of this office has been called into question, as the person in this role is hired and fired by the ICANN Board and reports to the ICANN Chair. The length of tenure has also been debated.
- Main article: GNSO
The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) brings together representatives of constituencies concerning gTLDs. As such, it has received criticism on its policy development process. Namely, Working Group dynamics and how the GNSO determines that it has reached consensus have proved particularly problematic.
- Main article: ccNSO
The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) was created by and for ccTLD managers, which are the entities that oversee a given nation's own Country Code Top Level Domain. The main issues it faces are a shortage of candidates and a lack of transparency and accountability in its PDP.
- Main article: ASO
The Address Supporting Organization (ASO) reviews and develop Internet Protocol recommendations. It has been criticized for lacking a single, authoritative description of the process for global numbering policies and a lack of transparency on the difference between the roles of the ASO and the NRO, which is a non-ICANN body that strongly overlaps with the ASO.
- Main article: GAC
The GAC advises the ICANN Board on how governments will react to potential policies. The GAC has come under fire for seemingly allowing the governments they represent a veto power over ICANN decisions.
- Main article: ALAC
The At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) advocates for the interests of individual Internet users. ALAC was recently criticized for spending too much time on process and administrative issues, and too little on policy advice, which was also considered of low quality. ALAC is also struggling with an uneven distribution of power.
- Main article: SSAC
SSAC was originally intended to expand and specialize the role of ICANN, and it received official recognition in 2002. SSAC as a body and its individual members have been criticized for their lack of communication and engagement with other ICANN bodies.
- Main article: RSSAC
RSSAC advises ICANN on the operation, administration, security, and integrity of the Internet's Root Server System. It has come under fire for offering minimal, reactionary input rather than offering regular updates and being distrustful of non-RSO stakeholders.
ICANN generates and relies on a multitude of policies and practices. Some of the policies, such as those that govern DNS, undergo a formal PDP and must culminate in an ICANN Board approval. The processes through which ICANN functions are developed through extensive dialogue in an effort to reflect the perspectives of various stakeholders in the ICANN community, but they do not require a PDP. Operational policies and General practices are examples of the latter.
- Main article: ICANN Policy Development
DNS Policies are developed through formal policy development processes (PDPs), as set forth by the Bylaws.
- Main article: ICANN Governance
Governance refers to the operational policies that define how ICANN operates as an organization. These policies are not subject to PDPs and tend to depend on community input through less formal means.
- Main article: ICANN Meetings
ICANN holds meetings three times per year; one of these meetings serves as the organization's annual general meeting, where new board directors take their appointed seats. These meetings are held in a different location each time, with each global region hosting a meeting before the regional cycle is started anew. The next meeting will be the 61st meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Meetings are designated as A, B, and C, and each meeting has a varying length and purpose.
- Main article: Fellowship Program
The goal of the ICANN Fellowship Program is to strengthen the diversity of the multistakeholder model by fostering opportunities for individuals from underserved and underrepresented communities to become active participants in the ICANN community. Fellows are exposed to the workings of the ICANN community, are assigned a mentor, and receive training across different areas of knowledge and skill building before, during, and after an ICANN Public Meeting. Travel assistance to attend the meeting is also provided.
- Main article: ICANN Accountability
- Main article: ICANN Reviews
ICANN has mechanisms in place for any individual or entity to solicit a reappraisal of any board decision that affects them. The Board Governance Committee is in charge of reviewing all reconsideration requests, which are submitted electronically and must be responded to within 30 days. The board's actions are also reviewed by an Independent Review Panel, which has the power to call attention to discrepancies between the bylaws and actions taken by the board, and recommend that the board readdress certain issues. Furthermore, ICANN's structure and operations, including every supporting organization and committee, are also subject to occasional reviews.
Conflicts of Interest
ICANN adopted a Conflict of Interest policy in 2012. The policy requires that all Board Members, as well as those in various other positions, disclose any and all potential conflicts of interest to the Board Governance Committee. They must then abstain from any ICANN activities related to the conflict of interest, Board members also may not join a business with a new gTLD registry until 12 months after the registry's application has been voted on. Prior to the policy, ICANN did not have a clear position. This notably came to a head in 2011, when a prominent staffer and the Chairman of the Board left ICANN for employment in the industry. Both were involved in developing ICANN's new gTLD program, and both went on the be employed in new gTLD-related ventures.
ICANN's CEO, Rod Beckstrom had previously noted at the opening ceremony of ICANN 42, even before staff members moved on, that he was encouraged by the fact that the ICANN community was moving to fix the lack of clear ethics rules within the organization. Following these developments, ICANN announced it would hire outside ethics experts to review its policies and make recommendations. The decision was made during a September 2011 meeting of the board governance committee.
Manwin Anti-Trust Lawsuit
- Main article: sTLD
Manwin, one of the most prominent adult content producers on the Internet, filed an Anti-Trust suit against both ICM Registry and ICANN over the creation and implementation of the .xxx sTLD. This legal action took place in November 2011, well after the TLD's approval and just before its general availability. It also filed an Independent Review Panel (IRP) Request with ICANN, making it only the second company ever to do so (the first being ICM Registry itself). Manwin felt that ICANN did not "adequately address issues including competition, consumer protection, malicious abuse, and rights protection prior to approving the .xxx TLD."
In January 2012, ICANN and ICM both filed motions to dismiss the case. ICANN argued that since it is a not-for-profit organization and it is not engaged in "trade or commerce," the US anti-trust laws are not applicable; additionally, both ICM and ICANN argued that Manwin's filing was essentially complaining about the possible increase in competition. ICM cited that Manwin had approached the company earlier with a supposed mutually-beneficial agreement, in which Manwin would acquire various premium .xxx domains for free, in exchange for sharing the profits of these domains with ICM. When ICM turned down the agreement, Manwin Managing Partner Fabian Thylmann said that he would do whatever he could to stop .xxx. ICANN's and ICM's motions to dismiss can be found here and here respectively.
Employ Media Arbitration
Employ Media requested an arbitration proceeding to resolve the notice of breach on the .jobs registry agreement issued by ICANN on February 27, 2011, in connection with the universe.jobs website. The jobs board website was launched by Employ Media in partnership with the Direct Employers Association, which the registry operator allowed to register more than 40 thousand .jobs domain names used on the jobs board to advertise job opportunities for more than 5,000 leading companies in the United States. ICANN claimed that the universe.jobs appeared to be in competition with other companies offering the same service and Employ Media's actions violated its charter. ICANN directed the .jobs registry operator and the [[SHRM|Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the sponsoring organization, to resolve the issues mentioned in the notice of breach and to comply with its charter. ICANN threatened to terminate the .jobs registry agreement if the problems were not resolved. Employ Media argued that the universe.jobs was launched in compliance with the Phase Allocation Program, which was approved by ICANN. Although the registry operator was disappointed with ICANN's actions Employ Media agreed to resolve the issue by invoking the cooperative agreement provisions in the registry agreement. During the cooperative negotiations, Employ Media agreed to stop registering non-company name domain names until May 6, 2011. However, the company abandoned the cooperative agreement proceedings when it learned that ICANN posted information about their cooperative negotiations regarding the notice of breach. Employ Media also accused ICANN of "bad faith action." ICANN's legal counsel explained that the internet governing body is just performing its duty to maintain accountability and transparency. When ICANN responded to Employ Media's arbitration request it reiterated its strong position that Employ Media violated its charter and that its decision was appropriate. ICANN asked the court to deny the registry operator's request for relief. At present, both parties are still waiting for the schedule of their arbitration proceedings from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration.      
.JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition Criticism
One day before the implementation of the new gTLD program, the .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, sent a letter to ICANN detailing the internet governing body's failure to evaluate and investigate all comments and information submitted by entities against the request of the .jobs registry operator to change its charter. It pointed out that ICANN failed to acknowledge its mistake and overturn its decision when complaints and evidence were filed for reconsideration that Employ Media violated its charter. The coalition chairman stated that ICANN was inefficient in dealing with the arbitration proceedings to immediately resolve Employ Media's charter violation, and consequently, the company continues to exploit the .jobs TLD and expand the universe.jobs website. Furthermore, it said that the internet community is concerned that ICANN's new gTLD program's multiple stakeholder protection mechanisms might end up mismanaged just like the .jobs TLD and ICANN's promises are "empty words." Moreover, Bell requested the ICANN Board to publicly disqualify Employ Media and its partner, the Direct Employers Association,from the new gTLD expansion program because the registry operator has a "history of abuse." According to its Chairman, this is the only way for ICANN to regain a measure of regulatory authority.
In May 2012, ICANN was recognized by The Board of Trustees of Sheikh Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah Informatics Award with their 11th 'Informatics Medal'. The medal is given with appreciation for the organization's efforts at maintaining and strengthening the Internet's infrastructure. The Board also expressed gratitude for the role that ICANN has played in developing and deploying Arabic IDN's, which allow Arabic populations to surf the web without relying on foreign characters or domains. The award has been given out since 2007 and is given to institutions or public figures that are influential in the fields of Informatics and Internet Development. It was received on behalf of ICANN by the company's President and CEO, Rod Beckstrom.
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