The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is an organisation that oversees IP address, top level domain and Internet protocol code point allocations. IANA was formerly one man, the late Jon Postel.
IANA delegates local registrations of IP addresses to Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). Each RIR allocates addresses for a different area of the world namely:
- ARIN for North America
- RIPE for Europe
- APNIC for Asia and the Pacific region
- LACNIC for Latin America and the Caribbean region
- AfriNIC for Africa
There is also a process for the delegation and allocation of IPv6 addresses, but there is currently little delegation pressure on blocks of IPv6 addresses, as supply vastly exceeds demand.
On January 28, 2003 the United States Department of Commerce, via the Acquistion and Grants Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued a notice of intent to grant ICANN control of IANA for up to three more years. It invited alternative offerors to submit in writing a detailed response on how they could meet the requirements themselves. Such responses were to be received no later than 10 days following publication of the invitation and the decision on whether to open the "tender" to competition was to remain solely within the discretion of the government.
The relationship between ICANN and the ccTLDs and RIRs can best be described as highly political, and there have been a number of proposals to decouple the IANA function from ICANN completely, with or without the cooperation of the U.S. government.