The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) has signed a momentous agreement with the US Department of Commerce effectively relinquishing America's high-level control of the internet.
Icann was created in 1998, and manages the allocation of IP address space, protocol identifier assignments, top-level domains and root server systems.
The Affirmation of Commitments will see factors such as accountability and transparency, as well as the security and resiliency of the internet, reviewed by an international committee of parties chosen by the chairman of Icann's Governmental Advisory Committee, which represents 100 countries around the world, and the chief executive of Icann.
"This new Affirmation marks an exciting new stage in Icann's development as a truly international entity, and confirms once and for all that the Icann model of public participation works, and works effectively," said Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of Icann.
"One world, one internet, everyone connected - this is our goal at Icann. This agreement gives international stakeholders an even more powerful voice in our activities moving forward."
The US government's influence has not been severed completely, but the agreement will give other countries and industry groups a much greater say in Icann's decision-making processes.
"This means that there can no longer be any doubt that the internet belongs to the world and is not under the control of any single government or special interest group," said Dennis Jennings, a member of Icann's board of directors.
"This historic agreement is only one part of this internationalisation process. Soon, because of Icann's Internationalised Domain Name [PDF] programme, all portions of an internet domain name may be made up of characters from almost any language.
"This will lead to a huge increase in internet users from regions in the world such as the Middle East or Asia, where people may not be using computer keyboards with Latin-based characters."
The move has been praised across the industry, and Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for Information Society and Media, described it as "an historic opening" and said that "things are moving in the right direction".
Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the internet, added: "The Affirmation of Commitments fulfils a long-standing objective of the original formation of Icann: to create an organisation that can serve the world's interests in a robust, reliable and interoperable internet."
Many registrars and interest groups, such as the Internet Society and VeriSign, have pledged to work with Icann to bring about the changes necessary to ensure the complete internationalisation of the internet.
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