What Is ICANN & What Does It Do?

What Is ICANN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers)

ICANN is an organization that manages important parts of the internet, involved in domain management, IP addresses, and policies for internet protocols. The organization involves a variety of people in its decision-making processes, such as governments, businesses, technical experts, and the general public.

This helps keep the internet a global resource that benefits all users, without any one group having too much control.

In this guide, we will explore how your online presence is influenced by ICANN. You will also learn how ICANN is structured, its role, and how much it affects your domains.


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  • Website owners can choose a catchy website address, following ICANN’s rules
  • Choose a standout domain name that sticks and secure your domain registration
  • Business owners can use ICANN’s domain lookup tools to research domain availability and ownership information, important for branding and marketing strategies
  • Remember, ICANN does not manage the entire internet but is responsible for specific parts of its infrastructure

What Is ICANN?

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a non-profit organization that manages and coordinates important parts of the global Internet. It was founded in 1998 and oversees the Domain Name System (DNS).

The main tasks of ICANN include registering domain names, providing IP addresses, and setting protocol parameters.

ICANN also creates policies to ensure that domain names are unique and accessible worldwide. Their work is essential in maintaining a stable, secure, and interconnected internet.

What Does ICANN Do?

ICANN does play an important role in managing and coordinating key functions of the global internet:

Domain Name System (DNS) management

ICANN ensures that domain names are unique and accessible worldwide. It also manages domain name registries and registrars, establishes rules for registering domains, and resolves disputes through mechanisms like the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

IP address allocation

To ensure devices can connect and communicate over the internet, ICANN manages the distribution of IP addresses. They partner with RIRs (Regional Internet Registries) to distribute IP blocks fairly to operators and organizations, ensuring a smooth and efficient process.

Protocol parameter assignment

To make sure internet services and applications work together, ICANN keeps a list of protocol parameters used in things like TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and IP. This helps ensure the compatibility and integration of internet services and applications.

Policy development

ICANN helps develop policies for domain names, IP addresses, and other internet resources. To accomplish this, they get different feedback from governments, businesses, technical experts, society, and internet users, holding meetings and working groups to discuss and establish these policies.

Root zone management

ICANN manages the root zone of the DNS,  which includes the list of top-level domains like .com, .org, and country-code TLDs such as .us and .uk. ICANN ensures that updates to the root zone are coordinated, which helps to maintain the security and stability of the DNS.

Does ICANN Manage the Internet?

ICANN does not manage the entire internet.

Instead, it is responsible for specific parts of the internet’s infrastructure, including the DNS, IP address allocation, and protocol parameter assignments.

By overseeing these important components, ICANN ensures that they are working properly and are coordinated with one another.

The internet is made up of many different parts, such as internet providers, content providers, and users.

ICANN helps ensure certain technical aspects work well together, but it doesn’t control the entire internet.

Does ICANN Control IP Addresses?

ICANN does not have direct control over IP addresses, which are used to identify and communicate with devices on computer networks, and are assigned numerical labels. ICANN works with RIRs to manage IP addresses.

ICANN’s role is to coordinate the allocation of IP addresses to RIRs, which then allocate those IPs to internet service providers and organizations within specific regions.

This ensures that they are distributed fairly and efficiently across the global internet.

Does ICANN Control Root Servers?

ICANN does not have control over root servers.

The DNS relies on root servers to match domain names with IP addresses.

ICANN handles the official root zone file, which lists top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com and .org.

However, the operation of the root servers themselves is decentralized and distributed globally. Various organizations independently manage and operate these root servers, working together to make sure the DNS is strong and can handle problems.

ICANN mainly keeps the root zone data, but other groups manage and run the root servers under a shared and global system.

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How Does ICANN Manage DNS?

ICANN manages DNS through oversight, policy development, and coordination.

  • Oversight—ICANN ensures that the DNS is secure, dependable, and efficient. They maintain an archive of important domains, including .com, .org, and country-specific TLDs such as .us and .uk. Whenever new domains are introduced, they revise this portfolio to ensure that the DNS remains current and operational.
  • Validation—ICANN gives validation to companies that register and manage domain names. They set rules and standards to make sure these companies follow the regulations and keep the DNS secure. This protects the rights of people who own domain names.
  • Dispute Resolution—To ensure that domain registrations are fair and legal, ICANN offers ways to resolve disputes over domain names. These mechanisms include the UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy), which can help with conflicts involving trademarks or cybersquatting (usage of Internet domain names that are identical or similar to trademarks without permission).
  • Global Coordination—To ensure that IP addresses and domain names work together seamlessly, ICANN collaborates with RIRs to coordinate the allocation of IP addresses. This coordination makes it easy for devices and websites to be accessed on the internet.

How Does ICANN Domain Registration Work?

ICANN oversees domain registration through multiple steps:

  1. Accredited Registrars Domain registrars are companies or organizations authorized to sell domain names to the public. They interact directly with individuals or businesses who want to register a domain name. ICANN is responsible for accrediting these registrars.
  2. Registrant Selection — To register a domain name, you need to check if it’s available first. You can do this on a registrar’s website or through their services. Once you find an available domain, you can proceed with registration.
  3. Registration — To register a domain name, you need to give your contact and ownership details, as well as pay the registrar. This information is saved in a database called the domain name registry.
  4. Registry Database Update — To update the domain information, the registrar contacts the relevant domain registry, such as Verisign for .com domains, and updates the DNS records.
  5. Ongoing Management — You can control the settings of your domain, such as DNS configuration, by using the control panel of the registrar.

Role of ICANN in Cyber Security

To keep the internet safe, ICANN makes sure that DNS and other internet resources are stable, secure, and trustworthy.

Here are the main ways ICANN helps with cybersecurity:

  • DNS Stability: ICANN manages the official root zone file to ensure the uninterrupted functioning of the global DNS system.
  • Validation of Registrars: After a company gets interested in how to become a domain registrar, it must be validated by ICANN and follow specific security and operational standards. This includes implementing security measures to prevent unauthorized domain transfers or hijacking.
  • WHOIS Data Accuracy: The information about domain registrants is stored in WHOIS data, which is checked by ICANN. Cybersecurity professionals and law enforcement agencies rely on this information to investigate cyber threats and incidents, so it’s important that the data is accurate.
  • DNSSEC Implementation: To make the DNS more secure, ICANN encourages the use of DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC). By digitally signing DNS data, DNSSEC helps prevent malicious activities such as DNS spoofing.
  • Registry and Registrar Compliance: ICANN makes sure that domain registries and registrars follow the rules in their contracts. This helps keep domain registration and management safe and secure.
  • Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC): The SSAC, which is part of ICANN, provides advice and recommendations on security matters related to the DNS and internet identifiers.

How Is ICANN Structured?

ICANN has an organized system that involves various supporting organizations and advisory committees to manage different aspects of the internet.

ICANN Supporting Organizations

  • Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO): It is responsible for developing policies related to domain names in the generic top-level domain (gTLD) space, such as .com, .org, and new gTLDs. Its focus includes domain name registration, dispute resolution, and other relevant domain-related issues.
  • Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO): The ccNSO deals with country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), such as .uk or .de. It works with managers of these domains to develop policies and best practices.
  • Address Supporting Organization (ASO): The main job of the ASO is to manage and give out IP addresses. They work together with the RIRs to make sure that IP addresses are given out fairly.

ICANN Advisory Committees

To make informed decisions, ICANN seeks guidance and recommendations from advisory committees. These committees, made up of individuals with diverse stakeholder interests, play a core role in shaping ICANN’s operations and policies.

  1. Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC): It is a group of people who work together to make sure that ICANN’s policies are fair for everyone, including governments. They help with important government issues that relate to domain names, the internet, and how it is managed. This connects ICANN’s approach with the government’s views, which is very important.
  2. Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC): It is dedicated to ensuring the safety and functionality of the internet. Their team of experts provides valuable guidance on how to prevent issues from arising.
  3. At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC): It is an organization that speaks up for regular internet users. They make sure that the voices and opinions of everyday people are taken into account by ICANN. ALAC works to shape policies and provide feedback on topics such as privacy and accessibility. They also push for the internet to benefit the public as a whole.
  4. Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC): It is made up of experts, including root server operators. It advises ICANN on matters related to the root server system’s operation and management.

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Where Is ICANN Located?

ICANN is a global organization that does not have a single fixed location.

Instead, it operates in a decentralized manner with offices and meeting locations around the world to facilitate international engagement and inclusivity.

ICANN’s main administrative offices are often referred to as its “headquarters,” even though they are not centralized in a single city.

Historically, ICANN’s main administrative hub was in Marina del Rey, California, USA, but it has since expanded to include offices in various regions.

ICANN conducts meetings, conferences, and events in different parts of the world to make sure that its work is available to stakeholders from different regions and time zones.

These meetings are important for policy development, collaboration, and decision-making within the ICANN community.

The Difference Between ICANN vs IANA

ICANN and IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) are two groups that play important roles in ensuring the best functioning of the internet. While they have distinct responsibilities, they collaborate to achieve this goal.

IANA is a function, not an organization, and it is a department within ICANN. IANA is responsible for the technical management of key internet resources, including:

  1. Protocol Parameter Assignments: To make sure that internet protocols work properly, IANA is in charge of managing different protocol parameters. These include port numbers, protocol identifiers, and MIME media types.
  2. IP Address Space Allocations: IANA allocates IP address blocks to the RIRs, which, in turn, distribute them to internet service providers and organizations.
  3. Top-Level Domain (TLD) Management: IANA works closely with IANA to assign and maintain TLDs in the DNS root zone.

In essence, ICANN is the broader organization responsible for policy development and management of domain names and IP addresses, while IANA is a specific function within ICANN that handles the technical tasks of protocol parameters, IP address allocations, and TLD management.

How Individual Internet Users Can Use ICANN Domain Lookup

Individual internet users can use ICANN’s domain lookup tools to obtain information about specific domain names.

To do this, they can visit ICANN’s website or use third-party domain lookup services that interface with ICANN’s database.

By entering a domain name, users can access valuable data, including the domain’s registrar, registration date, expiration date, and contact information.

This information can help users verify the legitimacy of a website, check domain availability for their own projects, or investigate ownership details for various purposes.

ICANN vs WHOIS Lookup Tools

ICANN lookup tools offer information about the management and rules of the worldwide internet structure. They usually provide information about top-level domains, domain name registrars, and other areas that ICANN is responsible for.

WHOIS lookup tools are specialized databases that provide specific information about domain names. For example, who is the domain’s owner and expiration dates.

While ICANN is reliable and consistent, WHOIS might have more info but can vary in accuracy. Choose based on what you need.

Final Word

As an internet user, your online presence goes beyond a website or social media.

No doubt, ICANN is essential to protect you online and even allow you to access articles like this.

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Next Steps: What Now?

Frequently Asked Questions

What does ICANN do in simple terms?

ICANN is in charge of overseeing important areas of the internet, such as domain names and IP addresses.

Their role is to make sure that domain names are unique and to create policies for internet resources.

They work with various parties to regulate the internet and maintain its structure and usability.

What is ICANN domain name?

ICANN does not represent a specific domain name but is the organization responsible for managing the global domain name system (DNS).

Its main objective is to ensure that domain names, like www.example.com, are unique and can be translated into numerical IP addresses, allowing computers to locate websites on the internet.

Can ICANN shut down a domain?

ICANN does not have the direct authority to shut down a domain.

Instead, it oversees the policies and regulations related to domain names. Domain registrars and hosting providers are responsible for domain management. In most cases, it is the registrar or hosting provider who suspends or shuts down a domain, not ICANN.

What is the difference between DNS and ICANN?

DNS is a system that helps computers find websites by translating easy-to-understand domain names into numerical IP addresses. ICANN is the group that oversees and manages different parts of the internet, including DNS.

While ICANN is like the boss of websites, creating rules and making sure everything is fair, DNS is the computer system that makes sure everything works properly. In other words, DNS is the technical infrastructure, while ICANN is the organization that governs it.

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