After complaints about American dominance of the internet and growing disquiet in some parts of the world, Washington has said it will relinquish some control over the way the network is run and allow foreign governments more of a say in the future of the system.
Icann – the official body that ultimately controls the development of the internet thanks to its oversight of web addresses such as .com, .net and .org – said today that it was ending its agreement with the US government.
The deal, part of a contract negotiated with the US department of commerce, effectively pushes California-based Icann towards a new status as an international body with greater representation from companies and governments around the globe.
Icann had previously been operating under the auspices of the American government, which had control of the net thanks to its initial role in developing the underlying technologies used for connecting computers together.
But the fresh focus will give other countries a more prominent role in determining what takes place online, and even the way in which it happens – opening the door for a virtual United Nations, where many officials gather to discuss potential changes to the internet.