Internet Registration Authorities and Registries (IANA, ICANN, APNIC, ARIN, LACNIC, RIPE NCC)
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Internet Centralized Registration Authorities
In both of the cases above, some sort of centralized organization is required. We need a group to take responsibility for managing parameters and ensuring that everyone uses the same ones, just as they use the same protocols. We also need to coordinate the assignment of identifiers such as addresses and names, to ensure that they are created and allocated in a way that is acceptable to all. In the world of the Internet, these are sometimes called management authorities or registration authorities.
The organization originally responsible for this task was the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Amazingly, while the name makes it sound like the IANA was a huge bureaucracy, it was effectively one man: Jonathan B. (Jon) Postel, one of the most important pioneers of Internet and TCP/IP technologies. Jon Postel ran IANA until his untimely and unfortunate death in 1998.
IANA was originally charged with the task of managing which IP address blocks had been assigned to different companies and groups, and maintaining periodically-published lists of Internet parameters such as UDP and TCP port numbers. It also was in charge of registrations of DNS domain names, which were more directly handled by the Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC), a service managed by the United States government. Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) was later granted the contract to manage the InterNIC, and was eventually purchased by Verisign.
As the Internet continued to grow, an effort commenced in the mid-1990s to define a new organization that would be responsible for the central registration of Internet addresses and names. This took the form of a new private, non-profit company called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is officially charged with all of the centralized registration tasks I have mentioned so far in this topic, including IP address assignment, DNS domain name assignment, and protocol parameters management.
In a simpler world, this development would have meant that ICANN would have replaced IANA, which would no longer exist. Instead, ICANN kept IANA around, leaving that organization in charge of overseeing IP address registration and Internet parameters. ICANN is of course now in charge of IANA, so really both organizations are responsible for IP addresses and parameters. This often leads to confusion, and to make things worse, it is common to see IANA and ICANN mentioned in conjunction as IANA/ICANN or ICANN/IANA.
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