Back in the summer of 1997, the Clinton Administration decided that it was time to privatize the remaining Internet functions that were being managed within the federal research establishment, mostly dealing with Internet names and addresses. These functions had been handled very successfully over many years by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) under the direction Dr. Jon Postel and his staff at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California under contract to DARPA. But it was clear from the rapid expansion of the Internet, the emergence of important players on the industry side, and rising controversy over issues such as Network Solutions' monopoly in issuing domain names for .com, that change was necessary.
After two major policy papers and months of argumentative debate, the government recognized the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as the new body to assume responsibility for these largely technical management functions. Working from plans drawn up by Dr. Postel, his advisors and the Jones Day law firm, ICANN is endeavoring to satisfy the many constituencies that seek a voice in future decisions on Internet naming and addressing. Sadly, Jon died last fall just as his plan was approaching endorsement by the federal government.
The young organization, incorporated at the end of September, 1998, began operation in early November, has an initial Board of nine appointed Directors headed by Chairman Esther Dyson, and an interim President/CEO Mike Roberts. They are responsible for completing organizational details, devising a representation structure for electing their successors, and beginning to deal with a backlog of undone policy work, such as a determination on if, how and when new top level domains (TLDs) will be created. The new Board has Directors from six countries and plans to hold meetings quarterly in locations throughout the world, beginning with Singapore in March, 1999 and Berlin in May, 1999.
Being neither a Congressionally chartered corporation nor an industry trade association, but something in between, ICANN is an international organization that faces a tough political future with many skeptics challenging the notion that the Internet community can successfully govern itself in the important naming and addressing area. But with a startup fund from corporate contributions, Chairman Dyson and President Roberts, both short timers by design, are determined to get ICANN off the ground and into operation in coming months. More information is available at: www.icann.org
The Internet Protocol Journal