It pairs the easy-to-remember web addresses with their relevant servers. Without DNS, one would only be able to access websites by typing in its IP address, a series of numbers such as “188.8.131.52”.
More by circumstance than intention, the US has always had ultimate say over how the DNS is controlled - but not for much longer, the BBC reported on Thursday.
The US will give up its power fully to Los Angles-based ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers —a non-profit organisation. The terms of the change were agreed upon in 2014, but it wasn not until now that the US said it was finally satisfied that Icann was ready to make the change.
ICANN will take charge of Internet’s naming system on October 1, 2016, the report said. Users of the web will not notice any difference because ICANN has essentially being doing the job for years. But it’s a move that has been fiercely criticised by some US politicians as opening the door to the likes of China and Russia to meddle with a system that has always been “protected” by the US. “The proposal will significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the Internet,” warned a letter signed by several Republican senators, including former presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz.
ICANN was created in 1998 to take over the task of assigning web addresses. Until that point, that job was handled by one man - Jon Postel. He was known to many as the “god of the internet”, a nod to his power over the internet, as well as his research work in creating some of the systems that underpin networking.
Postel, who died not long after ICANN was created, was in charge of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
Administration of the IANA was contracted to the newly- formed ICANN, but the US’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the Department of Commerce, kept its final say over what it was able to do. It is that final detail that is set to change from October 1. No longer will the US government - through the NTIA - be able to intervene on matters around internet naming.
From October, the “new” ICANN will become an organisation that answers to multiple stakeholders who want a say over the internet. Those stakeholders include countries, businesses and groups offering technical expertise. “It’s a big change,” said Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey.
“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,” he added.