Who’s ICANN and Why Are They Causing Email Issues?


Recently some of our customers experienced email issues due to a policy change by ICANN that caused them to temporarily lose access to some of their email accounts for a short period. The incident reminded us that many people may be unaware of who ICANN is and why they matter to your business, so we thought we’d do a quick FAQ about ICANN here on the blog so that you can be educated and aware.

Who’s ICANN?

ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. They are a non-profit organization that is responsible for managing, maintaining and assigning top-level and country-level domain names and IP addresses for Internet users.

If you have a domain or email address that you own, ICANN manages and assigns the top-level domain, such as .com or .net, that you’re using.

ICANN is not a domain name registry (they’re not keeping track of all .com addresses, for instance) and they’re not a domain name registrar (they don’t sell you a domain).

What ICANN does is define how the domain name system functions and expands. In other words, if you’d like to own the domain “my.business.texas” they would be the ones who would determine if “.texas” could become a valid domain.

What’s ICANN got to do with my email issues?

Recently, ICANN changed its policy on domain name registrations to require that all domain registrants confirm their domain contact information.

This process was supposed to be carried out by email, which was sent out to the email address on record for each domain. Unfortunately, many domain owners were unaware of who ICANN is, or that these emails required action on their part, so they ignored the emails.

In the Fall of 2016, ICANN began shutting off domains that were not confirmed by email. As a result, as many as 800,000 users experienced email issues, including a few of Tolar Systems’ clients. Users were able to get their emails working again once they confirmed, but it was a disruption to their business that could have been avoided had they understood the importance of responding to ICANN’s confirmation requests.

What can I do to avoid email issues?

Obviously, website or email issues such as losing access to your account or having your website go down because of failing to respond to an ICANN confirmation request is not a desirable situation. So, we have a few tips to ensure that this never happens to you.

  • When registering a new domain, watch your email carefully for a confirmation request from ICANN. You must respond to confirmation requests within 14 days to avoid losing access to your domain.
  • If you are not the domain registrant (I.e., if your email isn’t the one on file, such as if you’ve had a third-party register your domain on your behalf) make sure the domain registrant watches for the confirmation request and responds in a timely fashion. Ask them to forward the confirmation emails to you, to demonstrate that this has been taken care of.
  • Avoid using AOL or Yahoo email addresses as your confirmation email addresses as these can cause email issues with the confirmation process.

If you’re experiencing email issues due to ICANN confirmation, or if you’d like to learn more about how to avoid these kinds of issues in the future, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more.