Since the early 1970s, the networking protocols that define the Internet have required a list of identifiers – numbers and names – to be published. This list was originally maintained by Dr John Postel, of the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California (USC), on an informal basis and as an unwritten component of a contract with the United States’ Department of Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).
It was not until 1990, with the publication of RFC1060, that the term “Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)” was used to refer to the tasks involved in making and publishing this list.
During the 1990s, IANA evolved into assigning, managing and supervising three types of network identifiers: protocol parameters, IP addresses, and domain names. As the Internet continued to grow, the IANA functions grew more critical and it was felt that operation of these functions should be formalized in a contract.
In 1992, RFC1366 established the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) system and coordination of IANA’s numeric IP address function according to broad geographical areas. The RIPE NCC (also established in 1992) was the first RIR (serving a region that included Europe, former USSR states, the Middle East and northern Africa), joined in 1994 by APNIC (serving Members in the Asia-Pacific region).
In 1996, IANA and other organizations led efforts to propose a memorandum of understanding to transfer the management of the Domain Name System (DNS), from one backed by the U.S. government, to one that would be private and international.
In 1997, President Clinton’s administration named the Department of Commerce the lead U.S. governmental agency to support efforts for the management of the DNS to become private.
After a series of public consultations, in June 1998, the NTIA of the U.S. Department of Commerce published a policy statement called “Management of Internet Names and Addresses”, commonly referred as the “White Paper”. In this policy statement, the NTIA proposed to enter into an agreement with a new non-for-profit corporation to administer policy for the DNS.
In September 1998, as a response to the NTIA’s policy statement, private parties incorporated ICANN in California (U.S.) as a non-for-profit public benefit corporation. Subsequently, in November 1998, the NTIA entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ICANN to jointly develop the mechanisms to transfer DNS management to the private sector.
The MoU between the NTIA and ICANN ran for approximately eight years. In 2006, the efforts of the Department of Commerce and ICANN to transition the management of the DNS to the private sector, changed into a Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with a series of commitments and affirmation of responsibilities. The JPA expired in 2009 and was replaced with a long-standing Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), which recognized that the coordination of the Internet’s domain name and addressing system (DNS) is performed globally by a private sector-led organization.
In 2000, the NTIA accepted a proposal by ICANN to assume the IANA functions formerly performed by the USC under a contract with DARPA and entered into the first IANA functions contract with ICANN. The functions specified in this original contract were:
- Coordination of the assignment of technical protocol parameters
- Administrative functions associated with root management
- Allocation of IP address blocks
- Other services