Who Runs the Internet?

By William L. Nowell


Many people believe that the Internet and the World Wide Web are one and the same. That's a common mistake. Let's begin by clearing up that misconception.

The Internet is a global collection of computers and devices connected to one another. It consists of millions of public, private, commercial, academic, and government computers. Communications devices including phone lines, cable, fiber optics, wireless connections, and satellites connect these computers.

Uses of the Internet include e-mail, instant messaging, and streaming media, just to name a few. The World Wide Web is simply a resource that uses the Internet.

The World Wide Web, or simply the Web, is a collection of documents (Web pages) and other resources connected to each other by hyperlinks. The World Wide Web is the most commonly used resource on the Internet, but it is not the Internet.

So who runs the Internet? The simple answer is no one. It has no central governing body. However, a number of bodies guide the Internet's growth and development. This article briefly describes some of the major Internet bodies.

Major Internet Organizations and Committess

  • ISOC - Internet Society
    • IAB - Internet Architecture Board
    • IETF - Internet Engineering Task Force
    • IRTF - Internet Research Task Force
  • ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
    • IANA - Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
  • WaSP - Web Standards Project
  • W3C - World Wide Web Consortium
Connections through the Internet

The Internet Society (ISOC) is an international, non-profit organization. Its mission is to promote global cooperation and coordination of Internet standards. ISOC's activities fall into three main categories, namely Internet related standards, public policy, and education.

ISOC houses a number of groups including the IAB, IETF, and IRTF.

The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is a technical advisory group of the ISOC, whose responsibilities include:

  • Overseeing the architecture of the Internet including its protocols, procedures, and standards
  • Overseeing the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
  • Providing editorial management and publication of Request for Comments (RFCs)

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a group of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers. They develop and promote Internet standards, including the TCP/IP protocol.

The Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) conducts research on the long-term future of the Internet. It consists of a number of research groups whose focus is the development of Internet protocols, applications, architecture, and technology.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the assignment of domain names and IP addresses.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a part of ICANN. IANA is responsible for the global coordination of the DNS Root, IP addressing, and other Internet protocol resources.

The Web Standards Project (WaSP) is a group of web developers whose mission is to encourage the use of web standards as recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium, and other groups and standards bodies.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) creates Web technology standards such as HTML, XHTML, XML, and CSS. Web developers need to conform to these standards to insure that all users have access to their web sites.

Member Organizations

As of May 19, 2013, the W3C had 377 member organizations including:

  • Adobe Systems, Inc
  • Apple, Inc
  • British Broadcasting Corporation
  • Google, Inc
  • IBM Corporation
  • Library of Congress
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • National Association of Convenience Stores
  • Netflix, Inc
  • Stanford University
  • Verizon Wireless