We use it every day, but how much do we really know about the internet?
Looking into its innards illustrates why it is referred to as a "net" or "web." One node leads to another, interconnected while appearing autonomous. Acronyms abound: ICANN, IANA, DNS, ISP, TLD, IGF, NIC and NIXI - knick knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone.
One of the big regulatory players is ICANN, a non-profit corporation dedicated to coordinating the internet's addressing system. It is in the process of expanding the global internet, presently served by just 21 generic top-level domain (gTLD) names.
The New gTLD Draft Applicant Guidebook Update was published this month. Participants from 24 different countries had input, including individuals and organisations representing intellectual property interests, brand owners, business owners, domain name industry players, and governments. Familiar gTLDs that have existed since 1994 include .edu, .com. .net, .org and .gov.
IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is a part of ICANN, is responsible for global coordination of the Internet Protocol addressing systems, as well as the Autonomous System Numbers used for routing Internet traffic.
Although the internet is touted as a worldwide network free from central coordination, there is a technical need for some key components to be globally coordinated - and that role falls to IANA. Specifically, IANA allocates and maintains unique codes and numbering systems that are used in the technical standards - protocols - that drive the internet. Users are assigned IP addresses by internet service providers (ISPs). ISPs obtain allocations of IP addresses from a local, regional, or national internet registry, all with acronyms of their own - LIR, RIR, and NIR.
IANA is one of the internet's oldest institutions, dating back to the 1970s. One of its responsibilities is the management of the DNS (Domain Name System) root zone. They assign the operators of top-level domains. Their Root Zone Database represents the delegation details of top-level domains, including gTLDs such as ".com" and country-code TLDs such as ".uk".
The DNS provides the means by which mnemonic strings of letters and numbers are used to remember the addresses of the host computers that provide internet services. In 2007, there were supposedly more than 40 million registered domain names in the internet.
Domain registry services abound. In India, the administrative arm for ".in" domain names is the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI), which co-hosted the third meeting of the IGF (UN sponsored Internet Governance Forum) in Hyderabad in December 2008.
The NIXI policies were updated in October, 2008. Domain names may be registered for one to ten years. As far as restrictions, they are not as clearly spelled out as those for China, listed below. The policy reads: "The registry has the authority to deny or suspend a registration if it conflicts with the sovereign national interest or public order." India's specs leave lots of room for accepting or denying an application.
Many fully accredited registrars are authorised to register India-specific domain names. Net4India is one of the top providers, and is also an ICANN accredited registrar. GoDaddy.com also serves India. GoDaddy offers a 99.9 per cent network uptime commitment, with 24/7 customer service. It has extensive language support including Front Page Server Ext and Cold Fusion in both Windows and Linux environments. A third ICANN registrar serving India, Nominate.com, out of Kent, England, states: "Dot COM is a TLD (Top Level Domain) abbreviation for commerce, and is the most popular suffix as it is internationally recognised. It also handles Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD's) including: .in, .cn, .uk and .es - Spain.
In China, look to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). It operates and administers the ".cn" country code top level domain and Chinese Domain Name system. As the national network information center (NIC), CNNIC cooperates and works closely with NIC's of other countries.
CNNIC takes orders from the Ministry of Information Industry (MII). Their domain name policy lists the following restrictions:
"All registered domain names must not contain following content: 1) Those that are against the basic principles prescribed in the Constitution; 2) Those jeopardise national security, leak state secrets, intend to overturn the government, or disrupt of state integrity; 3) Those harm national honour and national interests; 4) Those instigate hostility or discrimination between different nationalities, or disrupt the national solidarity; 5) Those violate the state religion policies or propagate cult and feudal superstition; 6) Those spread rumours, disturb public order or disrupt social stability; 7) Those spread pornography, obscenity, gambling, violence, homicide, terror or instigate crimes; 8) Those insult, libel against others and infringe other people's legal rights and interests; or 9) Other contents prohibited in laws, rules and administrative regulations."
The Center for Democracy and Technology, a non-profit public policy organisation dedicated to promoting the democratic potential of today's open, decentralised global internet, states: "The .us registry should strive to support public service objectives related to its competence and experience, including encouraging internet access, accessibility, diversity, usability, education, and affordability. The operation of the .us registry should respect and promote human rights, civil liberties, and constitutional values, especially those related to freedom of speech and expression, and to the unique democratic potential of the internet as a medium."
The number of internet users, according to Internet World Stats, is currently 253 million in China, 220 million in the US, and 60 million in India. And the numbers grow with each sale of a PC, or the opening of an internet café. With that much traffic, regulatory bodies are unavoidable. X