In 2014, the United States began the process of relinquishing the last vestiges of its stewardship over the internet, starting a transition of full control to an international nonprofit, ICANN. It was a big deal—you may remember Sen. Ted Cruz warning about “the significant, irreparable damage this proposed internet giveaway could wreak not only on our nation but on free speech across the world.” At the time, I thought the ICANN transition was a mistake. Now, I suspect I was wrong.
ICANN is, in effect, the keeper of the internet address book—the Domain Name System, or DNS.
Someone, after all, has to decide that “microsoft.com” means the big computer software company in Washington so that when you type those words into your web browser you wind up at their servers and not at the server owned by a small company marketing tiny, soft towels. And someone has to decide that in addition to top level addresses that already exist (like dot.org and dot.com), we can now start using dot.bank and dot.xxx and dot.home as valid gTLDs. We call this role the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA—that is, the right and responsibility to assign names among the domains.
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