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What does ICANN do?

Within this ecosystem, ICANN, a non-for-profit, public-benefit corporation formed in 1998, plays a limited, yet unique and critical role -- it coordinates the administration of the Internet’s logistical infrastructure layer that delivers ‘One Internet’ for the world through three sets of unique identifiers:

  1. Domain names,
  2. Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and
  3. Protocol parameters.

These unique identifiers enable your computer to reliable find and connect to other devices, things, or information sources on the Internet no matter where you are physically located in the world. That is how the tens of thousands of networks appear and operate as one Internet.

Regarding domain names, ICANN directly draws up contracts with registries and runs an accreditation system for registrars. Regarding IP addresses, ICANN coordinates policy with the five regional Internet registries (RIRs) for allocating and assigning these unique numerical identifiers. Regarding protocol parameters, ICANN works closely with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to maintain and administer them.

In sum, ICANN does not run the system directly but plays a central, administrative role in concert with technical operation community actors, ensuring the security, stability, resiliency, and integrity of this critical layer.

To keep pace with the dynamic technologies and rapid innovation on the Internet, ICANN also facilitates the process of policy development that will enable technical changes to how the unique identifiers are run. Policy development is a fundamental part of ICANN’s mission.

Unlike the traditional, top-down government models, ICANN’s policy development uses a “bottom-up, consensus-driven, multistakeholder model”. It is “bottom-up” because any member of the global Internet community can raise issues and bring them to ICANN’s attention; “consensus-driven” because ICANN provides mechanisms to encourage discussion of diverse opinions and to facilitate agreement on action strategies for solving commonly perceived problems; and “multistakeholder” because ICANN brings together and gives voices to public sector, private sector, technical experts, civil society, and individual users in an inclusive manner.

This model mimics the very nature of the Internet -- borderless and open to all.