History of the Internet and Internet Governance

The development of the Internet, and early attempts to govern the Internet.

Although still a “young” technology, the Internet has had a profound impact on the world in the few decades that it has been around. In order to understand the scope and scale of Internet Governance, we need to understand and agree on what is “the Internet.

What is the Internet?

The term WWW is often mistakenly used as a synonym for the Internet, but the World Wide Web is actually a service that operates over the Internet. The Internet is not a hardware standard or a physical infrastructure. It is based on a set of software instructions (known as “protocols”) for sending data over networks.


The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies.

Basic Facts about the Internet:
The Internet as it exists today has several characteristics that have to be taken into account in any discussion of governance. These include the following:

  • Standards Commons: The Internet is based on open and non-proprietary standards that can be freely adopted by anyone.
  • Private Market: The networks interconnected through the Internet protocols are owned and operated by autonomous organizations, mostly in the private sector.
  • End-to-End Principle : The Internet protocols were designed to provide a neutral, transparent channel for the widest possible variety of information services.
  • Global: The Internet’s methods of establishing communication are non-territorial.

What is Internet Governance?

Given its nature, Internet governance is a form of global governance. A basic understanding of global governance principles and practices is necessary to create a better understanding for Internet governance. Global governance is often called for to

Internet governance started initially at the technical and standards level through standards bodies and the creation of ICANN. Subsequently, governance of the Internet became more complicated due to increased globalization and commercialization of the Internet, demanding additional governance mechanisms and fora.

What Does Internet Governance Mean?

In 2005, the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society defined internet governance as –

“the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the internet.”  

How is the Internet Governed?

Many information policy experts emphasize that “internet governance” is not the product of an institutional hierarchy, but rather, it emerges from the decentralized, bottom-up coordination of tens of thousands of mostly private-sector entities across the globe.

History of the Internet and Internet Governance

History of the Internet and Internet Governance

Post by dotZADNA

.ZADNA is statutory regulator and manager of .ZA

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