The United States will cease to be in control of the world’s domain names in October, since the US government has agreed to pass full control to ICANN – the body that oversees the Domain Name System.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has been managing DNS for years, but ultimate authority rested with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
The NTIA famously stepped in when ICANN tried to introduce .xxx top-level domains for porn sites in 2011.
DNS is the system that controls how IP addresses and web domain names are linked. A global DNS database keeps a record of which servers’ IP addresses a domain name should be directed to.
ICANN’s contract to run the domain system is with IANA – the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.
Once ICANN is in full control of DNS, the internet will effectively be truly global – run by a collection of territories, which are all part of the ICANN committee.
US Congress may still block these changes
At the time of writing, the US Congress may still try to block the change, which happens when the current contract expires on 30 September.
Ted Cruz spoke in the Senate on 8 September against the plan: “Today our country faces a threat to the internet as we know it. In twenty-two short days, if Congress fails to act, the Obama administration intends to give away the internet to an international body akin to the United Nations.”
Under the terms of the agreement, IANA must give ICANN 15 days’ notice of any intention to extend the agreement.
ICANN’s future is part of a much wider debate about how the internet is governed. Critics of the change say more power could be seized by other nations like China and Russia.