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A Largely Jargon-Free Guide to ICANN

Danielle Kehl wrote for Slate about how ICANN and ownership of the internet actually works.

Learning to navigate the World Wide Web in the ’90s was a little bit surreal. After suffering through those excruciating dial-up noises, you opened a popular browser like Netscape Navigator and typed a string of funny letters and symbols—a URL, they called it—into an “address bar” and voila! You would magically be transported to, say, a site dedicated to the instant classic Space Jam. And even if the site wasn’t actually on GeoCities, it usually had that restrained GeoCities aesthetic.
Today, surfing the web has become routine, but for most people the inner workings of the network remain just as mysterious as they were back in the 1990s, when the commercial internet was just starting to take off. For example, few know much about the internet’s Domain Name System, or DNS, which helps keep the internet working on a technical level. The DNS functions, in essence, as the internet’s “address book”—it’s how you can be confident that when you type a URL like www.spacejam.com into an address bar, you’ll actually get to the website you intended to visit. And, unless a major distributed denial-of-service attack happens to be underway, that process is usually so seamless that you don’t even have to think about it.