ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is a non-profit corporation which was created on September 18 1998 in order to take over a number of Internet-related tasks previously performed by other organizations, notably IANA.
The contract for ICANN came from the US Department of Commerce and was "sole sourced", which means no-one else (such as the Open Root Server Confederation which was also formed at the time) was able to submit a bid to perform the task. These tasks include managing the assignment of domain names and IP addresses. To date, much of its work has concerned the introduction of seven new generic top-level domains. Its activities, however, are very controversial.
ICANN holds periodic public meetings for the expressed purpose of staying in touch with its membership. Critics note that the locations of these meetings are often in countries with disproportionally small Internet access and far away from locations that the majority of the Internet-using public can afford to reach, thus making public input less likely.