Central to the functioning of the Internet as we know it is the Domain Name System (DNS), and currently at least, central to DNS is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). And now, in the context of expanding mandate of DNS names (the new global top-level domain names), the Snowden revelations that showed how the US government has abused its role in overseeing ICANN, and a few bungle-headed decisions by ICANN itself, that may be up for revision and change. The Register writes: The future health of the internet comes down to ONE simple question: can ICANN be forced to agree to oversight of its decisions?
Such is the importance of the core that ICANN has been purposefully lumbered with an organisational design that tests the limits of sanity: three supporting organisations (one of which is broken up into another four components and then sub-divided again); four advisory committees; a 20-person board; and a permanent staff. Just like the internet, however, this global and decentralised organisation has a potential flaw: a central core of staff and board, without which the rest of it would start to erode and break apart.An interesting and important subject, and a well-written article (slightly longer that usual, at 4 pages).
And thatâ€™s where the US government comes in. Since the creation of ICANN in 1999, the US government has overseen the organisation. Uncle Sam was supposed to step away within just a few years but for various complicated reasons, in every one of the 15 intervening years, ICANNâ€™s core â€“ its staff and board - have made at least one fundamentally stupid decision, usually against the explicit wishes of the majority of the organisation.
And then refused to change its mind.
Each time it has done so, the United States administration has done the equivalent of walking into the room, smacking ICANN over the head and leaving again.