On Friday, the United States Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) decided to give up control of the authoritative root zone file, which contains all names and addresses and other information for all top-level domain names. This domain name system (DNS) has been under the direct and total control of the government since 1997 via the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
The decision from the NTIA came in advance of the next ICANN meeting, which takes place in Brazil in April. The decision comes, says the Department of Commerce, because it’s now time to create a more global, multi-stakeholder model for the root DNS. The Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, Lawrence E. Strickling, said in a statement that the plan to move DNS into a more broad holding has been planned for years – nearly since the beginning of the Internet itself.
While some have drawn a line between the recent debacle and controversy surrounding National Security Administration spying and the sudden announcement for change, the fact is, the founding protocols for ICANN include such a change as an eventuality.
Steven D. Crocker, Board Chair for ICANN, issued a statement that said “Even though ICANN will continue to perform these vital technical functions, the US has long envisioned the day when stewardship over them would be transitioned to the global community. In other words, we have all long known the destination. Now it is up to our global stakeholder community to determine the best route to get us there.”
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade lauded the decision as “historic.” The rules for the change were laid out, he said, and include a requirement for multi-stakeholder control with no single government or country being allowed to have a controlling say.