ICANN plays a unique role in the infrastructure of the Internet. Through its contracts with registries (such as dot-com or dot-info) and registrars (companies that sell domains names to individuals and organisations), ICANN helps define how the domain name system functions and expands.
ICANN created the registrar market (together with an accreditation system) in order to introduce greater competition on the Internet. The result has been several hundred companies able to sell domains which itself led to a dramatic reduction in the cost of domains - an 80 percent fall. There is now a diverse and vibrant market in the supply of the Internet’s basic building block.
That accreditation process is currently undergoing reform in order to keep in up-to-date with a rapidly changing domain name market.
ICANN helped design and implement a low-cost system for resolving disputes over domain name ownership. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) has been used tens of thousands of times to resolve ownership disputes, avoiding the need for costly and complex recourse to the courts.
New top-level domains
ICANN approves the introduction of new "generic top-level domains" to the Internet - a process that expands the online space available. So far, ICANN has introduced 13 new top-level domains to the Internet, ranging from dot-asia to dot-travel, accounting for over six million domains. ICANN has also developed a refined process to introduce further TLDs that is being finalised with applications expected in early 2010.
Internationalized domain names
Through its decision-making processes, ICANN has adopted guidelines for the introduction of internationalised domain names (IDNs), opening the way for domain registrations in hundreds of the world’s languages - something that will expand the use and the influence of the Internet globally to new heights.