October 1st, 2016 is the day from which the world of Internet is going to undergo a massive change.
Since its inception, the US government has had the reigns of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), meaning it has the overall control of a global database of addresses for almost all the servers and websites that are there on the Web. But now, the US government has decided to pass on the baton to a nonprofit multi-stakeholder entity that has international representatives from foreign governments and tech companies.
The process of resolving domain-names to IP addresses is extremely important to the way the web, and the internet, functions. Over the years, one or another US government department has had the final word over this process. Currently, the ICANN is being administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a part of United State’s department of commerce.
The NTIA took the final step of handling over the reigns of ICANN to the California based non-profit on August 16th, 2016. This means, the NTIA won’t be renewing its contract with ICANN, which was due this October. The NTIA has had a contract with ICANN’s domain-name authority since the year 1998. It was as a result of this contract that the US government has had a control of the system since this long.
According to the US government, it finally decided to hand over the reigns of ICANN to the California-based non-profit as it feels the the private-sector internet has finally attained sufficient maturity. Interestingly, the handover process had begin two years in 2014, but the US government had sought an extension of its administration over the ICANN in order to figure out a way how the multi-stakeholder governance approach could be successfully executed.
While the US government says it is making the transition as it now considers the network to be mature enough, but one can’t ignore the important episode where Edward Snowden’s shocking revelations about the American government’s surveillance back in 2013 had started an engaging discourse about America’s dominance of the key internet infrastructure. In fact, such was the scenario that Russia and China were even supporting the calls for replacing the administration of the system by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union.
For the 3.5 billion users using the Internet, the handover isn’t going to change anything. This is because the NTIA’s role was mainly administrative, that means it didn’t get involved on a daily basis. So, the only difference is, that from October 1st, the duty of managing internet’s ‘phone book’ will fall to the non-profit body based out of California.