If you ask people what IANA is, you could get a range of answers. Some would say the IANA is Jon Postel, a pioneer of the early Internet.. Others might ask, “Could you spell that for me?” We hear “IANA” thrown around a lot these days and it’s clear most people aren’t clear at all.
IANA is an acronym: Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Internet pioneer Jon Postel led IANA until 1998, the year he died, out of the University of Southern California. Today IANA is a 10-person department within ICANN.
So what does the IANA department do?
The day-to-day job of the IANA staff includes:
- maintaining a central repository for the Internet’s standards
- verifying and updating changes to Top Level Domain (TLD) information
- distributing Internet numbers to regions for Internet use
The IANA staff does this by receiving and executing a range of requests. Many of the registries maintained by IANA are described in a contract ICANN has with the United States government. Some of the most well known registries are the DNS Root Zone, which is the official register for which top-level domains have been created; and the IP address registries, which lists which unique numbers have been allocated to which region.
However, there are hundreds of registries that are used behind the scenes that you may not be familiar with; registries such as port numbers and media types are not immediately obvious to users of the Internet but are important to ensure interoperability of the Internet. These registries ensure that vendors and software developers who want to build products for the Internet can work reliably with other devices on the Internet.
In short, the IANA team is keeper of the records of unique identifiers of the Internet. We are one small group of people just doing our share for the good of the Internet.