Wednesday, November 16, 2005

U.S. To Maintain Control Over Internet Domain Names

For your daily "news that doesn't seem to matter but really does" fix, look no further than this report on the recent decision to let the U. S. of A. keep its monopoly on domain names and the system that translates the addresses we type into our browsers into numbers that the machines treat as usable code. Among the peeved: North Korea, Cuba, the European Union, Iran and Brazil. To varying degrees, of course. I looked in vain for the Pyongyang Daily Herald response but -- gasp -- it's not on the Internet, which has something to do with kimchi.

For the puzzled, domain names are what comes at the end of a web address, like .com, .edu or whatever. (This also applies to pages that aren't in the American web world -- pages created by and for Italians, for example, usually end in .it, and British pages usually end with; the system is not really that complicated.) The reason this news is important has to do with fears of web censorship or stifling with red tape. The good bits:

"Let me be absolutely clear: the United Nations does not want to take over, police or otherwise control the Internet," said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. "Day-to-day running of the Internet must be left to technical institutions, not least to shield it from the heat of day to day politics."

Under the agreement, a California nonprofit body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, will continue to oversee the system that matches addresses like "" with numerical addresses that computers can understand.

Individual countries will have greater control over their own domains, such as China's .cn or France's .fr. Disputes have arisen on occasion between national governments and the independent administrators assigned to manage these domains by ICANN.


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