After over two decades of having a say in one of the most foundational aspects of the internet, the US government is finally ready to relegate the role to an agency specially developed for the purpose.
Starting from October the 1st, the US government will no longer have power over the domain naming system (DNS) that has been cloaking website addresses of the form of random numerical strings to the URLs we have come to know and love.
You are probably familiar with the fact that websites have addresses that actually look something like 142.100.99 and so on. However, due to a variety of reasons — some of which are more obvious than the others — a convention was adopted that allowed these numerical string to be cloaked under relevant names. It is thanks to these conventions that you can just type thetechportal.com into your address bar and arrive at India’s top online destination for business and technology news.
Strange as it may sound, this Domain Naming System (Or DNS as its more popularly known) is actually managed by departments of the US government. This is in a large part, thanks to the extremely significant role the US played in the early stage development of the web. Well, a post by the US department of commerce is pointing towards an era when the control of the DNS will have passed to an independent, non-profit entity.
As per Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator,
We informed ICANN today that based on that review and barring any significant impediment, NTIA intends to allow the IANA functions contract to expire as of October 1.
Where ICANN refers to a multi-stakeholder, nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is this organization, that will soon be taking up the job of handling and organizing the Domain naming system. Strickling also said that,
For the last 18 years, the United States has been working with the global Internet multistakeholder community to establish a stable and secure model of Internet governance that ensures that the private sector, not governments, takes the lead in setting the future direction of the Internet’s domain name system.
The move certainly makes sense and in fact, was long overdue. Internet is a global concern and that a single country had so much say in the nomenclature system was allowed mostly because there wasn’t any viable alternative. The US had a very significant role to play in the origins of the internet after all and most other parties — including international governments and private agencies — thought it better to simply maintain the status quo.
Meanwhile, the mechanism for a transfer of power have been agreed upon and ICANN shall soon take up power as an independent agency that governs the nomenclature norms. Certainly, the agency is still headquartered in the USA, but to all appearances and applications, it is independently operational. Supporters of the transition, that also include the Obama administration, believe that the move will ensure international support for the system while also maintaining the sanctity of the DNS.
Interestingly enough, a group of countries that included China and Russia, wanted DNS to be controlled by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union. However, others like US and the UK foot their foot down, citing the potential for human rights abuse, instead opting to shift control to an independent body.
Meanwhile, don’t expect any particularly drastic changes on an individual level — that is for you and me. Things are likely to continue as before with websites continuing to respond to the same old web addresses.