What is the IANA?
  • 21 Oct 2021
  • 4 Minutes to read
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What is the IANA?

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The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a body that is responsible for the coordinating of vital elements that enable the smooth running of the internet. It oversees the allocation of global IP addresses, Domain Name System (DNS), the internet media types, internet numbers and IP-related symbols. IANA is now run as a department of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a profit organisation based in California, USA.

Jon Postel managed it as a separate entity at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute under contract with the United States Department of Defence. In 1998, ICANN was established to take over IANA as a department under a new United States Department of Commerce deal.


The responsibilities of the IANA as published in the Request for Commerce (RFI) document, is the provision of globally unique names and numbers that are used for internet protocols. The RFC document furthermore describes the methods of working the internet and its connecting system and the appropriate behaviour, and research of innovations.

IP addresses and domain names require provisional administrative policies and delegations to subordinate administration due to its multi-layered distribution utilisation of these resources.

IP Addresses

Blocks of IP addresses are delegated to Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) by the IANA. These addresses are then allocated by RIRs to different regions of the world. The Number Resources Organisation is a body formed by the RIRs to embody their shared interests and guarantee the global coordination of policy statements. Address pools are divided by the RIRs into lesser blocks and delegated to end-user organisations and internet service providers in the respective regions.

Domain Names

IANA liaises with top- level domain operators, root name server operation and ICANN to administer data to root to name servers that make the apex of the DNS tree.

Protocol Parameters

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) protocols are administered by IANA under the supervision of the Internet Architecture Board. Examples of these parameters are the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) and character encodings.

Time Zone Databases

The Time Zone Databases is controlled by the IANA, and this allocates the data to be used by computers and other digital devices for updated and proper timekeeping. IANA took over this responsibility on October 6, 2011, after the shutting down of the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server that had housed the database.


IANA was informally established by the various technical formation performed by Jon Postel and Joyce K. Reynolds for the Advanced Research Project Agency Network (ARPANET) at the University of California (UCLA) and the University of South California (USC). Jon Postel managed the functions of the IANA from its start in 1992 up until his demise in 1998. Joyce K. Reynolds, who worked closely with Postel for several years, took over the management of IANA and the transition of its functions to ICANN.

They began to receive funding from the United States government after an agreement between the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and their Information Sciences Institute from 1988-1997.

The IANA project was transferred to ICANN after the transitional agreement between the USC and ICANN on December 24, 1998, which took effect on January 1, 1998.


The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been managing IANA since 1998 under contract and an agreement between the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) and the IETF. Oversight function are provided by the DOC includes the verification of add-ons and alterations to be made in the DNS core zone to guarantee IANA compliance with its policies. This agreement can be terminated with a six-month notice by the Internet Architecture Board (IAE) on the request of the IETF.

ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce entered into a formal project agreement in 1998 for the development of “mechanisms, methods, and procedures” necessary for the transition of domain name and its system (DNS) to the private sector.

The Department of Commerce, through the office the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agreed to a three-year extension of the IANA contract on the 28th of January, 2003. The DOC in 2006 approved an extension of the IANA contract for five-year tenure and after that was subjected to yearly renewals.

The “joint project agreement” was substituted by an “affirmations of commitments” by the ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce after it expired on October 1, 2009.

The intention to transfer “key internet domain name functions” to a “global multi-stakeholder” was announced on October 1 2009, and on the 14th March 2014, it was confirmed the criteria for the transfer of the domain name functions had been met with the intention of allowing its agreement with ICANN to terminate on September 30, 2016 after which the transition would take effect.

The agreement involving the United States Department of Commerce and ICANN expired on October 1, 2016 with its leadership and functions transferred to the private sector.


The IANA has had five managers since its inception. Jon Postel managed it and was assisted by Joyce K. Reynolds. After his death, Joyce K. Reynolds took over management from 1998 until 2003 when Doug Barton became the head of the department. David Conrad was head in 2005, and Elise Gerick took over in 2010.

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