ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)

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ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) oversees the distribution of Internet domain names, or site addresses, and other identifiers that distinguish one Internet site from another. The non-profit entity handles the assignment of IP addresses, which identify computers that are connected to a TCP/IP network; port numbers, which identify the type of port being used to ensure that data is connected to the proper service; and other protocol parameters that allow the Internet to operate as it does.

As mandated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, ICANN was founded in 1998 by Dr. Jon Postel as a private, non-profit association to handle Internet addressing policies and procedures. The growing number of Web sites, particularly those engaged in commerce, had resulted in a number of skirmishes between domain name holders. Incorporated in the U.S., ICANN was the end result of an effort launched in July of 1997 by the Clinton administration to facilitate the formulation of standard international policy regarding domain name assignation and dispute resolution procedures. ICANN supplanted the governmentally operated IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), which was established by the Internet Society and Federal Network Council to handle the assignment of domain names and other Internet protocol parameters.

ICANN was also established to eliminate the monopoly on domain name registration held by Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), the first private organization to register domain names. Founded in 1979, NSI began charging a fee for the service in 1995. Verisign bought NSI in March of 2000, and took over NSI's joint business of both selling domain names and controlling the registries, or master lists, of.com,.org, and.net addresses. While the advent of ICANN spawned the growth of several upstarts selling.com addresses on a retail level, the organization has yet to address the monopoly NSI holds on the registries themselves, which make money by charging address seekers a fee to join each registry. Several industry experts believe ICANN needs to put in place registries of new suffixes, or top-level domainssuch as.biz,.store, and.shopto offer more choices to new Internet site operators seeking domain names. While ICANN continued to research the matter, upstart competitor New.net began selling top-level domains such as.kids and.sport. in March 2001.


"Domain Strain; Internet Governance; ICANN's Unwelcome Rival." The Economist, March 10, 2001.

"ICANN." In Ecommerce Webopedia, Darien, CT: Inter-net.com, 2001. Available from e-comm.webopedia.com.

"ICANN." In Techencyclopedia, Point Pleasant, PA: Computer Language Co., 2001. Available from www.techweb.com/encyclopedia.

"Icann's Latest Gaffe." Computer Weekly, April 5, 2001.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names an Numbers. "About ICANN." Marina del Rey, CA: ICANN, 2001. Available from www.icann.org.

SEE ALSO: Cybersquatting; Domain Name; Internet Society (ISOC); URL (Uniform Resource Locator)