Six Organizations That Secretly Run The Internet
When it comes to the Internet, conspiracy theories abound. Some are decidedly tongue-in-cheek (such as Google’s impending creation of a SkyNet-style robot dictatorship), while others, such as the enduring and omnipresent threat of Illuminati control, are taken very seriously (at least by those who believe in them).
Of course, it’s not just the threat a new world order or the potential for a robot apocalypse that capture the minds and imaginations of folks on the World Wide Web. Beyond their reputation as innovators and purchasers of potentially unsettling robotic technologies, Google is regarded by many people as the de facto owner and primary operator of the Internet itself. And with good reason—the search engine is used by more than 60% of Internet-connected devices every day, and accounts for more than a quarter of all Internet traffic. But the truth is, even an entity as large as Google isn’t quite sufficient to run the whole of the Internet.
Instead, the operation of the Internet falls to six organizations, working in concert (and occasionally, at odds with one another). Some, such as the International Telecommunication Union and The Internet Society, concern themselves with ensuring (and improving) access to the Internet around the world, as well as helping to make sure that such access is fair and open. Other organizations, such as the Internet Architecture Board and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), deal with the physical and virtual infrastructure of the Internet, making sure that resources are organized effectively (and efficiently) while supporting the seemingly endless expansion of the Internet itself. Rounding out the six are the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a volunteer organization dedicated to the betterment of the Internet through positive influence on its design and resources, and, of course, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the companies who bring the Internet into the homes, public spaces, and workplaces around the globe.
Even in the hands of six massive interrelated organizations, the Internet’s complexity and ever-expanding presence make maintenance, innovation, and logistics an ongoing challenge. These six power players are on the job today, but as technologies advances and legal and ethical issues multiply, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be running the show—in public and in private—in years to come.
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