The Domain Name System

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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. The DNS is a Namespace: a collection of wordstrings organized into a hierarchy of labels. It is a distributed name registration framework that assigns unique licenses to use to human-readable strings for money. It is also distributed database that assigns wordstrings to IP addresses. It is a protocol to resolve wordstrings into an attribute (a singular IP address. It is a signaling medium.[1]

DNS Components

  • 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

Top-Level Domains

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 formed the basis for much of ICANN's mission and operational mandate to maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the DNS.


Continuing the hegemony of the DNS as the Internet means coping with the issues and questions about control (who gets to control it), Data Privacy, trust, fragmentation, security as a rendezvous tool and a collection of markets, DNS Abuse, scaling, speed, and the economics. 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.


  1. 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.[2]
  2. As the number and kind of TLDs continue to expand, Universal Acceptance becomes an increasingly important topic.

Bad Actors

  1. 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.[3]

Associated Bodies

ICANN exists to "facilitate the openness, interoperability, resilience, security and/or stability" of the Domain Name System (DNS).[4] 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:

ICANN Bodies

Other Organizations