Who owns the internet?

The Internet is huge and contains an incredible amount of information about everything in the world. Data ownership, or intellectual property ownership, is a big topic and we can discuss it next time if you wish.

Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash

The first thing you need to understand, the internet is not physical entity, it’s more of a concept. It’s a huge network of computers located all other the world. So it’s pretty difficult to own, impossible I would say.

No one has a patent for the internet. The founder of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, declined to patent it to make the internet free and accessible to everyone.

Photo by Les deHamer on Unsplash

Most of the infrastructure is owned by large Internet Service Providers (ISPs). ISPs are the companies who provide users access to the internet. They own network access points, extensive cables, and routers. Tier 1 ISPs own most of the infrastructure and sell their services to smaller ISPs.

Google, Meta, and Amazon invest in the internet infrastructure too. I wonder if they do it for more control of the network or for financial reasons. Companies use ISP’s infrastructure to make their services available to users and they have to pay for it.

The concept of Net Neutrality comes in here. It says that ISPs should treat all data the same. No priority for the traffic of any companies or users. There are advocates and critics of this concept. Advocate’s argument is that small ISPs an companies will not survive without neutrality. Critics say Google and Meta already own about 70% of world traffic. What do you think.

Ok, it’s more or less clear about the infrastructure.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

There is World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) who develops standards that are then implemented by manufacturers. It the one who adopted the HTML, DOM, CSS and many other useful standards.

Domains are handled by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This organisation regulates issues related to IP addresses, several key databases and domain names. Thanks to them, we have .info, .biz and many more domain zones.

Before 1998, there were only three zones, .com, .net, and .org. One company handled the registration of domain names, which caused the prices to be quite high, about $50 per year. We are lucky to have ICANN now.

There is also the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). This one is responsible for the technical standards that comprise the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP). The community has no formal organisation and participation is open to everyone.

This is not a complete list of internet standard organisations of course. The full list won’t fit in one post.

Could we say this organisations owns the internet? No, they just determine standards, that’s it.

Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

The most accurate answer would be large ISPs and big companies own it. Whether is good or bad, we’ll find out in the future.

P.S. If you’ve read the article, I would really appreciate it if you could let me know how much you liked it through the number of claps!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store



Software Developer, +12 years coding. Bachelors in CompSci.