The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet. Basically, it coordinates unique identifiers across the world (users’ addresses), allowing users to find each others and mankind as a whole to have one global Internet. See Article 1, ICANN Bylaws. See here for more information on how ICANN works.
ICANN was incorporated on September 30, 1998 in the state of California (see here). ICANN and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the United States Department of Commerce entered into an agreement according to which the latter would perform the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) stewardship functions. IANA is a department of ICANN. It regulates domain name registration for websites, handles the Domain Name System (DNS) Root Zone to ensure internet users are directed to the websites they intend to visit, and also handles internet protocols.
The agreement between ICANN and NTIA ended on October 1, 2016, and IANA’s stewardship functions of the Internet’s addressing system were formally transmitted to the global multi-stakeholder community. See here.
The transition represents the final phase of a plan to privatize the coordination and management of the DNS.
ICANN follows a “bottom-up, consensus-driven, multi-stakeholder model.” The U.S. Government together with the other stakeholders recognized that – as the commercial use of the Internet expanded globally – a private sector led organization would better adapt to the rapid pace of internet development.
Following the transitioning of IANA’s stewardship functions, however, internet users will see no change in their online experience.
For more information, Francesca Giannoni-Crystal