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article imageUS to 'hand over' the system that controls the internet

By James Walker     Aug 19, 2016 in Technology
The United States has announced it is ready to concede control of the internet's Domain Naming System (DNS), a vital component of the web that maps human-readable web addresses to numerical IP addresses. A non-profit organisation will now control DNS.
DNS is viewed as one of the most important systems used to run the internet. When you go to your browser, you are able to access websites by typing in their address. However, because the owner of an address can change many times through its existence, addresses aren't directly assigned to servers.
Instead, the web server that sends you the requested webpage has a unique IP address, a numerical string of numbers. When you type an address into your browser, such as "digitaljournal.com," it is automatically mapped behind-the-scenes to the IP address of the server. This process is powered by DNS, essentially an address book that pairs IP addresses with familiar website names.
Until now, the U.S. has had control of this system. However, as the internet has grown ever larger, it has been viewed as increasingly less appropriate for one country to have control over such a vital component of its infrastructure. From October 1st, 2016, ICANN, a non-profit organisation, will have complete control of DNS, without any input from the U.S..
The move has been underway for almost 20 years. It's a significant effort that will see the U.S. finally concede complete control of the DNS "address book" to ICANN. For internet users, there will be no discernible change. Everything will continue to function as before, except ICANN will be running DNS. It's already been doing the job for years, operating DNS under a contract with the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
In a blog post, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling described this week's announcement as a "milestone" for the internet. After years of work, there's finally a firm date for when ICANN's contract with the NTIA will expire. On October 1st the NTIA will allow it to end, giving ICANN control of DNS.
"The IANA stewardship transition represents the final step in the U.S. government’s long-standing commitment, supported by three Administrations, to privatize the Internet’s domain name system," said Strickling. "For the last 18 years, the United States has been working with the global internet multistakeholder community to establish a stable and secure multistakeholder 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."
While the move is generally viewed to be positive for the internet, it has been heavily criticised by some U.S. politicians. Fears have been voiced that it could give governments such as China and Russia the ability to tamper with DNS requests. The U.S. will no longer be able to enforce its own protections to stop such activity.
However, supporters of the free Internet have dismissed the claims. The statements have effectively confirmed that the U.S. views itself as the protector of the Internet, contradicting the web's role as an open communication method across the globe. Tim Berners-Lee famously gave the web to the world, a gift that is hindered by its attachment to the US.
"It's a big change," Professor Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey commented to the BBC. "It marks a transition from an internet effectively governed by one nation to a multi-stakeholder governed internet: a properly global solution for what has become a global asset."
The announcement brings to an end the almost 20-year-old goal of privatising DNS. THE NTIA first partnered with California-based ICANN in 1998 with the express intention of it coordinating the transition of DNS to a private company. Its current DNS "stewardship" role was intended to be temporary, although most current web administrators and domain name holders are unlikely to remember purchasing domains from anything other than ICANN.
More about United States, US, Internet, DNS, Icann
 
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