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How is ICANN organized?

ICANN is organized in three pillars:

  1. Community
  2. Board of Directors (Board), and
  3. Staff

Comprised of stakeholder parties representing various interests, Community develop and influence policies through their input, discussion, and advocacy for their point of view. Board reviews the policy development outcomes and make final decisions whether to approve or reject them. Staff provide the Community administrative and substantive support in the policy development and ultimately implements Board approve policies.


The ICANN Community mainly consists of three Supporting Organizations (SOs) that develop topic-specific policies, as well as four Advisory Committees (ACs) that provide advice on those policies and the wider ICANN activities.

The three SOs are:

  • Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) - developing policies on generic top-level domains (gTLDs) by bringing together registries, registrars, businesses, intellectual property interest organizations, Internet service providers, communications providers, and non-commercial interest organizations and users. Many of the GNSO policies have direct impact on registries that have contractual relationship with ICANN and registrars accredited by ICANN.
  • Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) - develops policies on Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) by bringing together organizations that manage ccTLDs.
  • Address Supporting Organization (ASO) - develops policies on IP addresses through the Number Resource Organization (NRO), the coordinating body for the five RIRs.

Developing policies that directly impact the Internet’s unique identifiers, these three SOs follow their distinct and complex procedures, namely the Policy Development Process (PDP). The ICANN Bylaws set forth PDPs used in the GNSO and the ccNSO. Regarding ASO, it has Memorandum of Understanding with ICANN that sets out its PDP.

The four ACs are:

  • At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) - provides advice on the activities and policies of ICANN as they relate to the interests of individual Internet users (its roles and membership structure will be elaborated in later sections)
  • Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) - provides advice on the activities and policies of ICANN as they relate to concerns of governments, especially in instances where ICANN’s activities and policies interact with national laws, international agreements, and public policy matters. GAC members are formally recognized representatives of national governments, distinct economies, and intergovernmental organizations.
  • Security & Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) - Advises on the security and integrity of the Internet’s naming and addressing system. Members are appointed by the Board.
  • Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) - Advises on the operation, administration, security and integrity of the Internet’s root server system. Members are appointed by the Board and represent the world’s 13 core root server operators.

In terms of scope and mechanism, these four ACs provide advice in different manners. For example, the GAC publishes the GAC Communique during ICANN International Meetings as a substantive form of advice to the Board. SSAC and RSSAC identify specific topics of interests and produce detailed reports, comments, and/or advisories less than 10 times a year. The ALAC advises on ICANN matters broadly and frequently (to be elaborated on later sections).

In addition to the SOs and ACs, Technical Liaison Group (TLG) is also part of the Community. Comprised of members of organizations that devise the basic protocols for Internet technologies (e.g. ETSI, ITU-T, W3C, IAB), it works to connect the Board with needed sources of technical advice.

Another interesting part of the Community is the Nominating Committee (NomCom). It is an independent group of Community volunteers selected from SOs and ACs that work together to identify future members in the Board, GNSO Council, ccNSO Council, and ALAC.


The Board consists of 21 members, among whom 16 are the voting Directors and 5 are the non-voting Liaisons.

The 16 voting Directors consist of:

  • 2 from the GNSO
  • 2 from the ccNSO
  • 2 from the ASO
  • 1 from the ALAC
  • 8 selected by the NomCom
  • ICANN President & CEO

The 5 non-voting Liaisons are appointed by the following groups:

  • GAC
  • SSAC
  • TLG
  • IETF

As the Board members are selected from the various Community groups, they can be considered as part of the Community. However, the Board members do not represent the organizations that appoint them, but have an obligation to serve the best interest of ICANN and of the public good. Hence, they are often treated separately from the Community.