The United States Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have come to an agreement which releases oversight of Internet domains from United States control and turns ICANN into a global private-sector led organization.
The Internet may have its roots in the United States, but it is a global entity now. For better, or for worse, the United States can no longer have sole control over an organisation like ICANN which impacts global commerce and productivity.
OK. Perhaps that is a little melodramatic. I mean, ICANN's primary function is coming up with and sanctioning top-level domains (TLD's). It decides that we can use .COM, .NET, .RU, .US, etc. The world hasn't come grinding to a halt just because ICANN won't approve the .PORN domain.
Now that ICANN is freed from United States control, some fear the opposite will occur. The global interests in ICANN have been in favour of greatly expanding the TLD's and the United States DOC has been the gatekeeper preventing that from happening. Now that the global interests have an equal seat at the table, perhaps the Internet will be inundated with ridiculous TLD's.
I don't think we have anything to fear. First of all, ICANN is still a bureaucratic organisation with a vested interest in ensuring that the Internet remains strong and viable around the world. It would be suicidal to make decisions that effectively damage the Internet.
Domains are not @ tags or hash tags. We don't need to have a new TLD for every trending topic you find on Twitter. There are plenty of fans around the world of the Manchester United football team, but that doesn't mean there is any value in creating a .MANU domain. Who would use it?
If anything, creating unlimited ridiculous hash tags might free up space and weed out the noise from the 'real' web. If silly sites were all relegated to .MANU, .PORN, .ICECREAM, or whatever, it would mean those sites were no longer using up legitimate space under .COM. Search engines could be optimised to search only specified TLD's and you could eliminate absurd or meaningless sites.
Besides, even though the United States let ICANN go, the DOC still controls Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which coordinates and maintains the system of DNS root servers, IP addressing, and other Internet resources. The United States may not control the sanctioning of TLD's, but if things get out of hand the United States still has a sort of de facto veto power because it controls DNS and can block new TLD's from being included in the root system.
I think it is about time that the United States let go of control. If you look at the state of America, I am not sure we [Americans] are in a position to tell other nations how to run things. ICANN isn't being turned over to a kindergarten class. They will make sound, rational decisions in a democratic way that makes sense to the majority of the ICANN members. Fair enough.
When type a word in the address bar of Internet Explorer and hit ctrl+enter, it defaults to .COM and it most likely always will.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.