Revamping the internet governance architecture is an issue fraught with dangers.

This is according to Jonathan Koppell, who has been speaking about the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as part of Future Tense, a joint effort of Arizona State University, the New America Foundation and Slate. While he points out there are flaws with how the body currently operates, this does not mean a total overhaul is required.

Set up back in 1998, its primary function is to oversee the coordination and management of the domain name system. The body is currently in the middle of considering thousands of applications for new generic top-level domains, in what plans to be one of the most radical shake-ups of the internet.

Mr Koppell – director of the School of Public Affairs and dean of the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University – noted the staying power of ICANN is evidence of the strange nature of global governance.

“Over the years, it has changed course, back-tracked and pivoted with something less than balletic grace,” he added.

The expert pointed to the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai as an opportunity to discuss this issue at length and so a lot of importance can be attached to this event.

“At the end of the day, building and maintaining functional international governance organizations is about keeping key interests satisfied and limiting the scope of authority to matters where those interests agree the existence of global rules is essential,” Mr Koppell stated.

However, he fully expects ICANN to continue to function in its current guise, partly because of the fact the global nature of the internet means issues such as censorship and control need to be debated.

Mr Koppell also praised the “stable equilibrium” that has been achieved through the use of the ICANN model, as it has been able to exert its authority over the web. Finally, it has proved itself to be very adaptable in meeting shifting demands and expectations.

ICANN ‘continues to perform useful function’
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