Vol. 14, No. 4, January 2012
There is no one organization that governs the Internet. Rather, many different groups work together to develop standards and rules for its operation. To facilitate this, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was established at the direction of the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society in 2005. At that summit, participants affirmed that “the international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.” To that end, the IGF’s goal is to provide a forum under the auspices of the United Nations for different Internet stakeholders to share ideas. It hosts an annual meeting, most recently in Nairobi, Kenya. Materials from its meetings are available on the Forum’s web site. There are also regional meetings, for example, Internet Governance Forum - USA.
When you type in an Internet address, what organization makes sure that when you type in “http://www.supremecourt.gov/,” you get to the web site actually published by the Supreme Court? The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers does. It coordinates what groups are assigned which IP addresses, and also makes agreements with domain name registrars to organize domains such as “.com” and “.edu.” ICANN is a non-profit corporation registered in California, so it is subject to United States law. Given its power in the Internet world, it emphasizes accountability and transparency on its website, and has a page documenting the many lawsuits in which ICANN is involved.
The Internet Society is a group focused on Internet policy, with an eye toward the future. Its membership is a who’s who of the world’s leading technology companies and associations. Their Future Scenarios exercise provides several thought-provoking possibilities on how the Internet could develop over the next 10 years. In conjunction with the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society publishes the IETF Journal, a valuable source of information on current issues on Internet standards and architecture.
Standards can affect the structure of a technology more than actual law. The World Wide Web Consortium, also known as W3C, sets the standards for many web technologies, including html, xml, and http. It is led by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. One of the group’s major initiatives is to improve accessibility on the Internet, by providing a host of resources on managing accessibility throughout a web site’s development. They also publish information for legislatures pursuing open government initiatives.
The Internet Governance Project, based at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, is a group of academics concerned with global Internet policy. It publishes reports and analyses on Internet policy issues, and submits comments to U.S. regulatory bodies like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It also maintains a blog where it discusses current Internet governance news.