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Internet Society (ISOC)

Last Edit: 24/04/17


The Internet Society (ISOC) is an organisation that provides an open forum for discussing Internet governance, policy, open development and technology. One of ISOC's primary goals is to promote an Internet that is "for the benefit of all people throughout the world". The Internet Society attempts to achieve this goal by influencing national governments and intergovernmental organisations by championing policies that provide open access to the Internet and through open development of the Internet's software (protocols) and architecture. The Internet Society provides leadership to the following Internet organisations (who evolve the Internet by developing it's protocols, architecture and hardware): Internet Architecture Board; Internet Engineering Steering Group; Internet Engineering Task Force; Internet Research Steering Group; and the Internet Research Task Force.

Vint Cerf at the Geneva 2012 INET conference, organised by ISOC and this was the 20th anniversary year of the foundation of the Internet Society. Vint Cerf at the ISOC's INET Conference in 2012

The Internet Society also attempts to educate the public and scientific community by hosting workshops and conducting training workshops in developing nation states. ISOC also provides grants to organisations that either increase Internet connectivity or promote the application of Internet technologies. The philosophy of the Internet Society is that "the Internet is for everyone", and aims to be the heartbeat of the Internet community by providing an open forum to discuss the use and operation of the Internet.


The technology and ideas that underpin the Internet were developed in the late 1960's when the ARPANET computer network was built in the United States. ARPANET was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, and as it evolved into the Internet - through the development of TCP/IP - in the 1980's it's backbone network and administration was still controlled by U.S. Government bodies. However, by the early 1990's, politicians like Al Gore, were promoting the idea of an "Information Superhighway" that 'was for everyone' and it was decided to transition the backbone network of the Internet to commercial companies who could sell access to the general public.

It was at this stage in the Internet's development that it was decided that there was a need for a non-profit organisation who would provide leadership in designing and evolving the protocols and architecture of the Internet. In 1991, the first INET Conference was held in Copenhagen: an open forum, where individuals like Lawrence Landweber discussed the concept of the Internet Society. At the final session of this conference - on the 20th of June - Vint Cerf (designer of TCP/IP) announced the foundation of the Internet Society. The first document created to finalise the concept of the society was signed by Vint Cerf, Lyman Chapin and Bob Kahn. The INET Conference would be held annually and was an open forum to discuss all matters related to the Internet and the ISOC.

In September 1991, the Internet Society Secretariat was formed and was located at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI). The first member of ISOC was Jon Postel, who was involved in a friendly race with Stephen Wolff to fill out the membership form and pay the $70 membership fee. The official date of the formation of the Internet Society is the 1st of January, 1992. It had taken roughly six months of planning and organisation - since the first INET Copenhagen meeting - to create the structure of the ISOC. The first president of ISOC was Vint Cerf, and he held this position until 1995 when he was replaced by Lawrence Landweber.

The next conference of the INET was held in Kobe, Japan (1992); it was at this conference that the first official meeting of the ISOC was held - it was also the first meeting of the Internet Architecture Board. The ISOC was incorporated in 1993 and the next INET Conference was held in San Francisco; George Sadowsky discusses the developing countries workshops. The APNIC regional registry is created by ISOC in 1994; the APRICOT regional registry is created by ISOC in 1995; and the ARFINIC regional registry is created by ISOC in 2004. The U.S. Department of Defense releases a green paper in 1998, which leads to the creation of ICANN to oversee the DNS; ISOC provides input. Jon Postel dies in 1998, and ISOC creates the annual Jon Postel Service Award. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) are held in 2003 and 2005, sponsored by the UN, the Internet Society attends, and topics, such as transitioning ICANN into a global body, are discussed. ISOC hosts the World IPv6 Day in 2011, and organises it's launch on the 6th of June, 2012. The Internet Hall of Fame was created by the ISOC in 2012, and inducted members in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

From 1992-2017, ISOC creates a range of national chapters - like the ISOC England chapter - and creates regional bureau's - like the North American bureau. The INET Conferences were held at the following locations: Prague 1994, Honolulu 1995, Montreal 1996, Kuala Lumpur 1997, Geneva 1998, San Jose 1999, Yokohama 2000, Stockholm 2001, Washington DC 2002, Barcelona 2004, and Cairo 2005.

Locations and Structure

The Internet Society currently has offices in two locations - as of 2012:

  1. 1775 Wiehle Avenue, Reston, Fairfax County, Virginia, United States
  2. 15 CH-1204 Geneva, Switzerland

Alongside offices in North America and Europe, the Internet Society also has 'chapters' (currently over 100 chapters) and regional bureau's in: Africa, Asia, and Latin (South and Central) America. Individuals members (there are currently over 75,000) create the chapters; which are usually based upon nation states but some are special interests. The Internet Society was formed with a corporate framework which comprises a board of trustees. The current (2012) board of trustees are international in scope: Eric Burger from the US; Eva Frolich from Sweden; Philip Smith from Australia; Raul Echeberría from Uruguay; and Alain Aina from Benin, West Africa. The Internet Society aims to provide an open and collaborative approach, where people from across the globe can 'come together' to devise technology, policy, and development.