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Edition 1, Volume 18
The Vast World Wide Web –
Part 2: Who’s In Charge?
Now that you know a bit about how the Internet works, maybe you’re like me and thinking, “That’s all fine and good. But who’s in CHARGE of deciding the who, what, when, where, why, and how of this vast web structure?”
Because the Internet is a giant system made up of much smaller systems, there is no single “owner,” no single “in charge” person. Yes, there are organizations that determine the Internet’s structure and how it works, but they don’t have any ownership over the Internet itself. On top of that, no company can lay claim to owning the Internet, nor can any government.
The physical network that carries Internet traffic between different computer systems is the Internet backbone. Today, several large corporations provide the routers and cable that make up this backbone. These companies are upstream Internet Service Providers (ISPs). That means that anyone who wants to access the Internet must ultimately work with these companies, which include: UUNET, Level 3, Verizon, AT&T, Qwest, Sprint, IBM (notice Microsoft is not on the list).
Then you have all the smaller ISPs. Many individual consumers and businesses subscribe to ISPs that aren’t part of the Internet backbone. These ISPs negotiate with the upstream ISPs for Internet access. Cable and DSL companies are examples of smaller ISPs.
As the Internet evolves, these protocols must also change. That means someone has to be in charge of the rules. There are several organizations that oversee the Internet’s infrastructure and protocols. They are:
- The Internet Society: A nonprofit organization that develops Internet standards, policies and education.
- The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF): An international organization with an open membership policy that has several working groups. Each working group concentrates on a specific topic, such as Internet security. Collectively, these working groups try to maintain the Internet’s architecture and stability.
- The Internet Architecture Board (IAB): An IETF committee, the IAB’s mission is to oversee the design of Internet protocols and standards.
- The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN): A private nonprofit corporation, ICANN manages the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). ICANN is responsible for making sure that every domain name links to the correct IP address.
The Internet Society and IETF are open membership organizations. Both welcome the participation and input of Internet experts. They shape the way the Internet works and evolves. ICANN, on the other hand, is a private organization. ICANN holds a lot of power over anyone who wants to register a domain name. ICANN makes money by accrediting vendors called registrars. These registrars then sell domain names to consumers and businesses. If you want to register a specific domain name, ultimately ICANN decides if you can have it.
So there you have it. While none of these organizations are exclusively in charge of the Internet, they each influence how the Internet works.
Next article: Ten Ways to Get More Facebook Fans (reprinted from http://www.authormedia.com)
This article was retrieved, in part, from:
Strickland, J. (n.d.). Who owns the internet?. http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/who-owns-internet1.htm