The Internet Society (ISOC) is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet-related standards, education, access, and policy. It states that its mission is “to promote the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world”.
The Internet Society has its headquarters in Reston (Virginia), United States (near Washington, D.C.), and offices in Geneva (Switzerland). It has a membership base of more than 140 organizations and more than 80 000 individual members. Members also form “chapters” based on either common geographical location or special interests. There are over 110 such “chapters” around the world.
The ISOC is the parent company for the Public Interest Registry, which manages the .ORG top-level domain.
The Internet Society is governed by a Board of trustees. The current list of trustees and their committee memberships is found on the organization’s website.
Short History of the ISOC (Internet Society)
The Internet Society was formed officially in 1992 by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn with one of its purposes being to provide a corporate structure to support the Internet standards development process.
Vint Cerf Keynote at ISOC’s 20th Anniversary INET, 2012:
Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn and Lyman Chapin released a document (“Announcing ISOC”) which explained the rationale for establishing the Internet Society. This document also defines the original charter of the organization as follows:
The Society will be a non-profit organization and will be operated for international educational, charitable, and scientific purposes, among which are:
- To facilitate and support the technical evolution of the Internet as a research and education infrastructure and to stimulate involvement of the academic, scientific, and engineering communities (among others) in the evolution of the Internet.
- To educate the academic and scientific communities and the public concerning the technology, use, and application of the Internet.
- To promote scientific and educational applications of Internet technology for the benefit of educational institutions at all grade levels, industry, and the public at large.
- To provide a forum for exploration of new Internet applications and to foster collaboration among organizations in their operation and use of the Internet.
Many of the main forces of the Internet, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), remain very informal organizations from a legal perspective. There was a growing need for financial support and organization structure. The Internet Society was incorporated as a non-profit educational organization which could provide that support structure, as well as promoting other activities that are important for the development of the Internet.
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
The Internet Society is the parent corporation of the IETF. As such all IETF Request for Comments documents, including those RFCs which describe “Internet Standards”, are copyrighted by the Internet Society (although freely available to anyone, including non-members, at no charge). However, the Internet Society itself grew out of the IETF, to support those functions that require a corporate form rather than simply the ad hoc approach of the IETF.
In reality, the Internet Society was formed because the IETF Secretariat, which had been operated under the National Science Foundation (NSF) contract by staff at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) would not be supported beyond 1991 by NSF. The then Internet Activities Board sought to create a non-profit institution that could provide financial support for the IETF Secretariat among other things. CNRI served as the first host for the Internet Society’s operation.
World IPv6 Day
In 2011 The Internet Society helped organize World IPv6 Day, which gathered companies such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Akamai Technologies and Limelight Networks as well as ISPs to raise awareness of IPv6 issues such as fragmentation.
Internet Hall of Fame
In 2012 (on ISOC’s 20th anniversary) ISOC established the Internet Hall of Fame, an annual award whose purpose is:
“to publicly recognize a distinguished and select group of visionaries, leaders and luminaries who have made significant contributions to the development and advancement of the global Internet”.
Internet Society Today
The Internet Society conducts a great range of activities under four main categories:
- Public policy;
The ISOC works with countries and community partners to support network development, interconnection, and Internet traffic exchange, as well as training individuals who can build and maintain the Internet infrastructure in their regions.
Under the standards category, the Internet Society supports and promotes the work of the standards settings bodies for which it is the organizational home:
- Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF);
- Internet Architecture Board (IAB);
- Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG);
- Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).
The Internet Society also seeks to promote understanding and appreciation of the Internet model of open, transparent processes and consensus-based decision making.
Under the public policy category, the ISOC works with governments, national and international organizations, civil society, the private sector, and other parties to promote policies about the Internet that conform to its core values. The following statement illustrates the foundation for the Internet Society’s policy positions:
We envision a future in which people in all parts of the world can use the Internet to improve their quality of life, because standards, technologies, business practices, and government policies sustain an open and universally accessible platform for innovation, creativity, and economic opportunity.
The Internet Society has a prominent function in Internet governance discussions, including significant involvement in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and Internet Governance Forum (IGF).
Under the category of education, the Internet Society pursues its goals by:
- coordinating and delivering hands-on technical training, seminars and conferences on topical Internet issues;
- supporting local and regional Internet organisations;
- issuing briefings and white papers on Internet technologies;
- funding participation opportunities for Internet experts in developing countries.
The Internet Society also encourages innovation and fresh thinking by providing grants and rewards to relevant initiatives and outreach efforts that address the humanitarian, educational and societal contexts of online connectivity.