ICANN Historical Timeline

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ICANN's history and the history of the Internet are interlinked, and the mission of ICANN was carried out prior to its formation by volunteers, governmental actors, and academic institutions. The following is an attempt to categorize the history (and prehistory) of ICANN and the Domain Name System into eras. Some eras are defined by technical and technological advances, while others are defined by policy initiatives, structural or operational changes to the ICANN org, or a broader thematic push. For instance, the present era involves the globalization of access to and use of the Internet; despite ICANN's commitment to the global Internet community from its inception, several trends have converged to make the present moment a fight for global and universal access and acceptance: Internet usage in BRIC will represent the vast majority of growth in the coming decade; Internationalized Domain Names are growing in prominence, and the effort to ensure universal acceptance of alternate language scripts is as well; efforts to provide [[Alternative Roots|alternatives to the DNS by China and Russia are forcing a broader conversation about the value and impact of a global, interoperable Internet; and ICANN itself is aggressively seeking to improve its presence in and outreach to under-represented parts of the world.


Evolution of the Multistakeholder ModelInformation Transparency InitiativePTIGeneral Data Protection RegulationGlobal Inclusion InitiativesInternationalized Domain NameNew gTLD ProgramRoot Scaling StudyFirst Accountability and Transparency ReviewFirst GNSO Organizational Review#ImplementationVertical IntegrationICANN Reviews2002 Evolution and Reform ProcessAd Hoc Group on Future Numbering RequirementsVertical Integration#History of Vertical SeparationTestbed RegistrarsInternet Assigned Numbers Authority#IANA ContractICANN#History: The BeginningMaarten BottermanCherine ChalabySteve CrockerPeter Dengate ThrushVint CerfEsther DysonGoran MarbyAkram AtallahFadi ChehadeAkram AtallahRod BeckstromPaul TwomeyStuart LynnMike Roberts


ICANN has grown and changed significantly over the years. Many people have made contributions throughout their lives to shaping how the Internet and ICANN work. The following is an abbreviated look at the birth of the Internet and the development of ICANN. It should not be taken as a canonical resource regarding ICANN's evolution. Technological and policy initiatives overlap. The boundaries for each era are necessarily fuzzy. Although the effort is to identify themes within the events and history of a given era, there is no guarantee that we have it "right," or that there is a "perfectly correct" representation of a given timeframe.

Mission & Values

ICANN's Core Mission and Values have also evolved over time. As the scope and breadth of ICANN's Mission have become more defined, the organization's bylaws have adapted as well: establishing new policy development mechanisms; integrating prior agreements into the bylaws; and more fully describing the purpose and goals of the organization. Within ICANN org, staffing and organizational changes have focused on implementing ICANN's mission as instructed by the board.

1968-1976: The Birth of the Internet




  • UCLA grad student Jon Postel proposes that a "numbers czar" be appointed to keep a record of addresses on the ARPANET and guard against address collisions. The research community agrees and elects Postel to the position of internet numbers coordinator (eventually to become known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority).[6] Ultimately, the ARPANET was a product of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. MIT, the University of Southern California, UCLA, and the Stanford Research Institute, under contract with DARPA, were all instrumental in the development of technologies that are still used today in the modern Internet.[7] Jon Postel, Vint Cerf, Steve Crocker, and other Internet pioneers were first connected with ARPANET projects and innovations.

1983-1988: Birth of the DNS

NSFNet Logo (Image from History of Information)



  • Postel officially establishes IANA





  • Over 20,000 servers online hosting websites

1988-1995: Legitimization


Documents & RFCs

IAB logo (Image from A Brief History of the IAB)

* RFC 1083 - Internet Activities Board Official Protocol Standards (first mention of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) in the RFC Index)[8]


  • Internet goes commercial/ gains a public/ officially becomes marketplace

Documents & RFCs

  • RFC 1358 - Original Charter of the Internet Architecture Board (the Internet Activities Board gets a new name and charter document)[9]
  • RFC 1386 - The .us Domain (Jon Postel explains structure and use of the .US ccTLD and second-level domains for states)[10]



  • Network Solutions enters into a five-year contract with the NSF to provide domain name registration and network number assignment services.

Documents & RFCs

  • RFC 1436 - Internet Gopher Protocol[11]
  • RFC 1527 - What Should We Plan Given the Dilemma of the Network? (Gordon Cook presents his thoughts and proposals, developed during his time with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, on the possible regulatory and policy needs of the National Research and Education Network and the "American" internet, as they become a noncommercial part of the global internet)[12]



  • Postel publishes what will become a canonical resource for the management of (and debates regarding) the domain name system.

Documents & RFCs

  • RFC 1591 - Domain Name System Structure and Delegation

1996-1997: Internet Governance in Broad Strokes

IAHC Original Members (Image from Internet Society)



  • In May 1997, the ISOC and IANA form the International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) concerning the development of a new governance model for TLDs following the expansion and commercialization of the Internet.
  • June 1997, the Clinton administration commits to the privatization of DNS management.


1998: Birth of ICANN


  • In February 1998, the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) creates a Proposal to Improve the Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses.
Early ICANN Headquarters at USC ISI (Image from Britannica)

* In September 1998, ICANN files its Articles of Incorporation with the California Secretary of State.

  • In October 1998, ICANN’s first board meeting is held in New York, at which Esther Dyson is named Chairman and Mike Roberts is designated President of ICANN.
  • In November 1998, a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Department of Commerce and ICANN is signed.[13] Contemporaneously with the signing of the MoU, ICANN amends its Articles of Incorporation to include a broader statement of public benefit that conforms to the expectations of the MoU.
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce releases the “Management of Internet Names and Addresses” outlining the objectives of ensuring DNS stability, maintaining competition, keeping Internet Governance in the private sector, relying on bottom-up coordination, and encouraging diverse and global representation.
  • In December 1998, the University of Southern California (USC) and ICANN enter into the IANA functions transition agreement.


1999-2002: ICANN's Ad Hoc Era



  • DNSO comes into existence
  • In March,
  1. the ICANN Board adopts the Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy for .com, .net, and .org, allowing for competition among domain name registrars for the first time ever, and establish the bylaws for the formation of the DNSO; and
  2. ICANN 1 takes place in Singapore, where the (GAC) and the RSSAC hold their inaugural meetings.
  • In October,
  1. the ASO is established, and
  2. the ICANN Board approves the UDRP.



  • The first New gTLD Expansion Round is conducted.[14]
  • L Root Server moved to ICANN [15][16]

2001-2003: ICANN Reform




  • M. Stuart Lynn: "President's Report: ICANN -- The Case for Reform"[18]
  • ICANN Bylaws, as revised in December 2002 in response to the Evolution & Reform Process and the ERC's recommendations.

2002-2006:Expansion of ICANN Community



ICW Main Page ahead of its ICANN 24 debut

* LACNIC joins ASO

  • SSAC formed
  • Bicameral GNSO replaces DNSO



  • The ccNSO is created for and by ccTLD managers
  • ICANN launches the second new gTLD expansion round, which runs until 2011 and during which .asia, .cat, .jobs, .mobi, .tel, .travel, .xxx are delegated.
  • NomCom is formed
  • ALAC is established





  • ICANNWiki is founded to foster and grow knowledge and community ties among ICANN's diverse constituencies.
  • AFRINIC joins the ASO

2007-2009: Seemingly Infinite Reviewing Cycle

First Organizational Review Timeline

Rough Timeline of ICANN Review Overlap

The ICANN Bylaws call for two different types of review - organizational reviews (Article 4.4) and specific reviews (Article 4.6). Article 4.4 reviews were born from the 2002 Evolution and Reform Process, and require periodic review of ICANN's supporting organizations and advisory committees. Article 4.6 reviews originated in the Affirmation of Commitments, and the first round of "specific" reviews occurred before these reviews were enshrined in the bylaws. The amendment to the bylaws came about as a result of the IANA Functions Stewardship Transition, when it was recommended that the bylaws be revised to incorporate ICANN's obligations under the Affirmation of Commitments.

As the organizational reviews began, ICANN was in the process of entering into the Affirmation of Commitments with the United States Department of Commerce. As a result, the first specific reviews were launched in 2010, while most of the organizational reviews were still in progress or only recently completed. Many community members since that date have commented on what seems to be a relentless cycle of reviews of one aspect of ICANN or another (or many others at the same time).

ATRT 3 addressed this issue head-on, suggesting that organizational reviews be replaced by "continuous improvement programs," the results of which could feed into a single, "holistic" review of the organization and its constituent parts, to be performed on a periodic basis. In addition, the ATRT 3 team recommended suspending the next cycle of specific reviews until the completion of the next Accountability and Transparency Review. These recommendations were met with varying levels of enthusiasm. The ICANN Board approved the recommendations in the fall of 2020, with caveats. On the specific review side, the board noted that community approval would be required to amend the bylaws around specific reviews. In the organizational review reforms, the board agreed to implement pilot projects testing both the "holistic" review model and a continuous improvement model.





2009-2012: Defining Accountability and Transparency at ICANN

ATRT1 Process (Image from ATRT1 Milestones, ICANN)






  • "Scaling the Root: Report on the Impact on the DNS Root System of Increasing the Size and Volatility of the Root Zone"[21]

2012-2017: Scaling the Root




  • The NTIA announces its intention to transition responsibility for IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community, and instructs ICANN to develop a transition plan.[22]


RFC 7282 - On Consensus and Humming in the IETF: Pete Resnick describes the process of gathering opinion and reaching "at least rough" consensus in decision making at the IETF.[23]

2015-Present: Toward Universality





  • ICANN and NTIA formally end their contract for the IANA functions, completing the transition of the IANA functions stewardship from NTIA to ICANN.[24]