ICANN, guardian of the global DNS

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is an international, not-for-profit organisation that brings together individuals, industry, non-commercial and government representatives to discuss, debate and develop policies about the technical coordination of the internet’s domain name system (DNS).

ICANN is responsible for coordinating and managing the global DNS IP addresses, and other internet unique identifiers. Its primary role is to ensure the stable and secure operation of these systems, and to promote competition, innovation and access to the internet.

Ultimately, ICANN aims to maintain a globally accessible, interoperable and resilient internet for everyone.

While ICANN’s scope is limited, its importance cannot be overestimated. Policies developed at ICANN mainly impact generic top-level domains (gTLDs), but some that are of a technical coordinating nature can have an impact on country code top level domains (ccTLDs).

More information can be found at https://www.icann.org.

What is ICANN’s role regarding gTLDs and ccTLDs?

One of ICANN's key responsibilities is the management of generic top-level domains (gTLDs), which are TLDs that are not tied to a specific country or territory. Examples of gTLDs include .com, .org, and .net.

ICANN is responsible for allocating new gTLDs, while ensuring the stability and security of the gTLD system and managing the relationships between gTLD operators and other stakeholders.

While ICANN does not directly manage country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), which are generally governed by an independent manager according to local laws, the organisation does work closely with ccTLD operators to ensure that the global DNS system remains stable and secure.

ICANN also provides technical assistance and support to ccTLD operators – particularly those in developing countries or regions with limited resources.

Lastly, ICANN maintains the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) functions, which – among other things – involves coordinating and allocating top-level domains names to the operators of various TLD registries, including both gTLDs and ccTLDs. This management is performed strictly according to policies set out by the global DNS community.

The IANA functions and Public Technical Identifiers (PTI)

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions are managed and carried out by the Public Technical Identifiers (PTI), a subsidiary organisation of ICANN.

In essence, PTI is responsible for the operation of:

  • Domain names – including management of the DNS root zone as well as the database of ccTLDs and gTLDs. 
  • Number resources – coordination of global Internet Protocol (IP) and autonomous system (AS) numbers. 
  • Protocol assignments – providing a central repository for protocol name and number registries

In more practical terms, PTI maintains the accuracy and integrity of the global domain name system (DNS) by managing the allocation of unique identifiers, such as IP addresses and domain names, and ensuring that they are assigned in accordance with established policies and procedures.

PTI works closely with a variety of stakeholders, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), domain name registries, and other technical organisations, to ensure that the DNS functions efficiently and reliably. 
More information can be found at https://www.iana.org.