We like to know who’s in charge; it simplifies life by telling us where to go if we have things to address. But, in the case of the Internet, things aren't quite that simple. The easiest answer to this question is there's no one person or governing body ruling the Internet and the complex answer is that there are multiple guidelines and organizations that make everything work and you could spend the next year studying them. But there's one component that's common across the board -- and necessary for things to keep running smoothly.
Here’s an analogy to consider -- think of the Internet as our system of speech. Hardware like mouths, tongues and windpipes, combined with guidelines like phonetics, grammar and vocabulary, managed by people like teachers and dictionaries make speech possible. But, none of it works if we don’t find a common language in which to communicate. For the Internet, that common language is the TCP/IP protocol.
The necessity for TCP/IP protocol, which was first designed by the U.S. Department of defense back in the 1970s, became evident when the different branches of the military realized that their computer systems could not communicate with each other [source: Gilbert].
There are many companies like IBM, Qwest and AT&T as well as international bodies such as The Internet Engineering Task Force and The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that have certain responsibilities and tasks for making the Internet work. But like many aspects of life, it comes back to communication, and without a common language or protocol, all the computers, routers and networks in the world would not be able to talk to each other.
For a giant system like the Internet to function, a set of rules called protocols must be followed. These standardized rules must be maintained and changed based on the evolution of the Internet. The following organizations listed serve as caretakers of these protocols:
- The Internet Engineering Task Force has several working groups that together maintain the system's stability. Each group also focuses on a specific area of interest, like Internet security.
- The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers manages Internet domain names.
- The Internet Society develops Internet education, policies and standards.
- The Internet Architecture Board oversees the standards and design of protocols.
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