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Six Organizations That Secretly Run The Internet

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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).

Does Google Own the Internet?

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. When you compare it to its competitors, Google's a behemoth. A juggernaut.

But the truth is, even an entity as large as Google isn't quite sufficient to run the whole of the internet.

The Big Six That Run 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 review of, and 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.

What Does the Future Hold?

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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Transcript: Organizations That Secretly Run the Internet

Most people think of Google as the centre of the World Wide Web, but really Google is just a front man. Who's really behind the scenes pulling the strings?

We take a look at the organizations that really run the Internet.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

  • Established:
    • 1865
  • Aim:
    • Dedicated to issues of international information and communication technologies.
  • What they really do:
    • Ensure fair play across the internet, on an international scale.
    • The ITU are responsible for radio frequency on earth, as well as in space. Without their careful planning, satellites might collide into each other.
  • Influence on the Internet:
    • Any nation with a grievance regarding the internet can report to the ITU, which is internationally funded to ensure fair play. They're a sort of 'High Court' of the internet.
  • The ITU are hoping to pass a treaty that will:
    • Allow all nations equal governance of the Internet
    • Improve access
    • Reduce spam email
    • However, in December 2012 at the ITU conference in Dubai
      • 89 countries signed the treaty
      • 55 declined

Internet Architecture Board (IAB)

  • Established:
    • 1992
  • Aim:
    • Oversees technical and engineering development of the internet, as well as task forces such as IETF (see below).
  • What they really do:
    • As the internet grows bigger, stronger and more influential, the IAB make certain that the internet's global systems are up to task.
  • Influence on the Internet:
    • The IAB is a panel of elected officials. They are the closest descendent of ARPA and maintain standards on the internet, particularly in relation to technical operations and developments, such as TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and IP (Internet Protocol).
  • 1969: ARPAnet linked together four computers. The Internet was born.
    • 1971: ARPA linked together 111 computers, including systems in Europe and Hawaii.
      • 1990: As the internet became public and commercialized, ARPA ceased to exist. The IAB was born.

The Internet Society (ISOC)

  • Established:
    • 1992.
  • Aim:
    • To acknowledge that the internet is for everyone and work to maintain that vision.
  • What they really do:
    • Ensures that the internet remains a place for learning with up-to-date information.
  • Influence on the Internet:
    • The ISOC look towards the integrity of the internet. For example, they ensure that the .org domain is restricted to 'empowering, non commercial use'.
  • In November 2013, ISOC issued a statement suggesting that upcoming Intellectual Property laws could affect their vision, offering "disproportionate balance of rights in favor of intellectual property owners."

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

  • Established:
    • 1985
  • Aim:
    • To provide high quality, relevant documents that influence how people design, influence and manage the internet.
  • What they really do:
    • If the developers of the internet are students, then the IETF act as their tutors, teaching and providing guidance to those wanting to improve the internet.
  • Influence on the Internet:
    • IETF is a voluntary organization, true to the vision of the internet as a developing, community space and is dedicated to 'making the internet work better'.
  • IETF work in groups, such as
    • Routing
    • Transport
    • Security

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

  • Established:
    • 1998
  • Aim:
    • To maintain 'places' on the internet, from web addresses to IP addresses. They ensure that no two connections have the same name.
  • What they really do:
    • Make sure that everyone on the internet knows their place, quite literally.
  • Influence on the Internet:
    • Without them we would not know who or where we are on the internet.
  • Despite their status as a non-profit organization, in 2011, ICANN was worth nearly $100 million.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Nowadays, the internet is largely supplied by a number of large scale ISPs. They provide internet to homes and businesses, and often also email services and other features.

In the USA, ISPs are regularly accused of operating a price racket, where internet prices are much higher than many other developed countries.

  • At 300 mbps download speed:
    • Paris: $26.73/month
    • Washington, DC: $209.99/month

As the internet continues to revolutionize the planet's communications, there will be many more technological, ethical and legal challenges ahead.

Who knows what other organizations will pop up to protect the various vested interests of the internet?


  • ICANN Publishes Its Annual Report and Reports $100 Million in Assets - circleid.com
  • History - iab.org
  • Welcome to ICANN - icann.org
  • Mission Statement - ietf.org
  • Participate in the Internet Engineering Task Force - ietf.org
  • Who Owns and Runs the Internet: The Special Role of ISOC - information.aero
  • Mission - internetsociety.org
  • History of the Internet - internetsociety.org
  • Internet Usage Statistics - internetworldstats.com
  • History - itu.int
  • ICANN Approves New Top-Level Domains, so Prepare for .Whatever - mashable.com
  • the Cost of Connectivity 2013 - newamerica.net
  • Who Signed the ITU WCIT Treaty&Hellip; And Who Didn&Rsquo;T - techdirt.com
  • Boundless Informant: The NSA&Rsquo;S Secret Tool to Track Global Surveillance Data - theguardian.com
  • Who Controls the Internet? - theguardian.com
  • Protecting the Open Internet May Require Defunding the ITU. Here&Rsquo;S How to Do It. - washingtonpost.com
WhoIsHostingThis Team

About WhoIsHostingThis Team

Our writing team comes from all over the world with diverse backgrounds in the arts and sciences. But what links them is their passion for the internet. All together they represent many decades of experience working in all facets of it -- from programming and hardware creation to website design and marketing.


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February 22, 2014

Simple solution: go Iceland!