TOP LEVEL DOMAIN MARKET STRUCTURE
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is an internationally organized,
non profit corporation that has responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol
identifier assignment, gTLD and ccTLD name system management, and root server system management
These services were originally performed under United States Government contract by the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and other entities. ICANN now performs the IANA
functions under Transition Agreements and Implementation Agreements.
ICANN was created through a
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the United States Department of Commerce and ICANN
to transition management of the Domain Name System (DNS) from the United States government to
private sector Internet stakeholders. The United States Government effects such privatisation by entering
into agreement with and seeking international support for a not for profit corporation formed by private
sector Internet stakeholders to administer DNS policy.
Following reforms introduced by ICANN, the gTLD market can be broadly characterised along the
following lines. Registries perform back office functions and provide services to Registrars. Registrars, in
turn, provide services to users. Many ccTLDs are also structured along these lines while others have direct
sales, from the registry to users, without the use of registrars. There are also important distinctions between
sponsored and unsponsored TLDs as well as those domains that compete in the same space and those that
serve more limited communities. Before looking at the market shares for TLDs it is necessary to briefly
summarise the position of various players in the registry and registrar segments of the market.
The responsibility for operating each TLD (including maintaining a registry of the domain names
within the TLD) is delegated by ICANN to a particular organization. These organisations are referred to as
registry operators or sponsors . Currently, the gTLDs of
are in use, and the corresponding registries are under contract
with ICANN (
). Separate arrangements apply to
, under United States Government
which is directly under ICANN's responsibility.