Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Ever wonder who controls the naming of websites and IP addresses on the world?
Google.com or Amazon.com or Facebook.com, websites with which we are familiar. If you have ever tried to log in to your router, the IP address 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.1.254 might sound familiar as well. Ever wondered who is managing or administrating these domain names and addresses in the first place? Who is stopping you from also launching another Google.com, is there a governing body behind all these names and numbers?
There is a system in place, or there would be chaos from the very start, which brings us to the organization named ICANN, short for Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers. And another organization to take note of is IANA or Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. To put it merely, ICANN looks after domain names and IANA is responsible for the assignment of IP addresses. While many might speculate or imply ICANN as the owner and manager of all domain names around the world, this is not true. ICANN's role is more dispute resolutions than anything else. It would be impossible for one body to manage domains or even claim the right to own any new domain name, primarily unique domain which ends with .asia or .tv as opposed to .com.
On the other hand, IANA is entirely different, IANA's role is regulatory and mandates which IP address range, especially in IPv4, used for specific purposes, which explains why we host a website on a public IP domain of 192.168.1.1. Since these specific IP ranges have been marked as reserved for private use and allow any organization to use it within their local area network.
Before we look further into ICANN, we should start with IANA's history, since it was formed a decade before ICANN. Formed in 1988 by the US government, IANA was initially a solution for managing DNS root zones and was at first used to perform simple technical functions for the US government ARPANET project, the first iteration of the internet widely used in today's modern society. As the function within IANA grew as the protocols and functionality of internet technology developed further, eventually a decade later, when ICANN formed, IANA was transferred as s function of ICANN itself.
While both IANA and ICANN is a result of US government funding and development, ICANN committee now consists of representatives, observers and keyholders from around the world. This was an essential development for ICANN, considering how the internet functions as a crucial communication infrastructure for the entire planet, and what has been happening over the years is ICANN's independence from the US government control, morphing it into an international body where all are encouraged to participate.
Domain registrars around the world like GoDaddy, Domain.com or HostGator are regulated by ICANN, protecting owners from potential conflicts of ownership to either domain and IP addresses. So each time you check if a domain name is available, the information is checked through ICANN's database as well, revealing even which registrar is managing the said domain name's user. ICANN also does a great job at protecting valuable domains from any form of intellectual property abuse, for example, if a larger company wants to claim a domain owned by an individual, your registrar can not forcibly remove the control from you and give it to a private corporation which has offered substantial compensation for its acquisition.
If ICANN has shown us one thing, it is how humanity can work together towards a singular purpose; in this case, it is fair access to rights to IP addresses and domains—protecting a domain name owner, no matter how small the organization maybe is the direct result of such a fair initiative. So whichever country you come from, you know that your domain rights are protected.
Thank you for reading 'IT Support 101: What is ICANN and IANA?' by IT Block. IT Block is an IT support services provider based in Singapore and we love sharing our IT knowledge with the world.