February 3, 2012 4:00 AM EST
The U.S. plan to relinquish stewardship of key technical functions that ensure the Internet runs properly drew praise and criticism over the weekend as experts began to make preparations for the transition. If the process goes smoothly, it shouldn't affect the day-to-day Internet experience for users, but the shift, which was announced Friday by U.S. officials, nevertheless represents an important development in the evolution of the Internet. Although the U.S. has long intended to give up its role overseeing important technical aspects of the Internet, the proposed transition has already attracted critics who fear that the Internet's free and open nature could be jeopardized. At the same time, the plan has received positive feedback from several major technology companies, including Google, AT&T and Verizon. The origins of the Internet date back to the early 1960s, when the U.S. government funded research that led to the development of "ARPANET," which was established by the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). ARPANET was eventually connected to other government, academic and research networks, forming a "network of networks" that would ultimately become known as the Internet. Since then, the U.S. government has had a unique role in the distribution of numbers that make up Internet addresses, as well as the Domain Name System (DNS) that translates those numerical addresses into recognizable Internet names like time.com. For more than a decade, the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has performed those functions under a contract from the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). "The DNS is similar to a phone book, where if you know someone's name, you can find their number and place a call," says Laura Denardis, a professor at American University and the author of The Global War for Internet Governance. "Most people take this for granted because they're not aware of the coordination and administration of the technical architecture behind the curtain that's needed to keep the Internet going." It remains unclear what kind of entity will assume stewardship of the Internet's technical functions, but the U.S. has made clear that it will "not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution." The reason for this is that the U.S. does not want any single government or coalition of governments, like that represented by the United Nation's International Telecommunications Union (ITU), to exert undue influence over Internet governance. "We need to have some kind of centralized coordination of names and numbers, because each name and number has to be globally unique," DeNardis tells TIME. "Someone has to keep track to make sure there's not duplication of addresses. The best case scenario is a balance of power in which multiple stakeholders play a role." The U.S. has been under increasing pressure from other countries to relinquish its stewardship of the Internet's technical functions, especially in the wake of revelations about U.S. Internet surveillance supplied by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. "The Snowden disclosures served as a lightning rod to focus attention on this issue," says DeNardis, though she was quick to point out that the U.S. role in the DNS is separate from NSA surveillance activities. On a conference call Friday, ICANN Chief Executive Fadi Chehade downplayed Snowden's role, according to Bloomberg. In truth, the U.S. never intended for its Internet stewardship to go on indefinitely. As far back as 1997, the U.S. made clear that its ultimate goal was to privatize the technical functions to support a "multistakeholder" model of Internet governance. The current U.S. contract expires on September 30, 2015, so the NTIA is asking ICANN to bring together stakeholders from around the world to craft a proposal for the next stage of Internet governance. "The timing is right to start the transition process," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling. In a statement, NTIA said that it has "communicated" to ICANN that the proposal must have "broad community support" and ensure the "security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS" and maintain the openness of the Internet as a global platform. Importantly, the U.S. will retain responsibility for the .mil, .gov, and .edu top-level domains. Predictably, the proposed transition has already begun to be politicized. Following the announcement, former Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House Speaker, tweeted: "Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the Internet to an undefined group. This is very, very dangerous." He added: "What is the global internet community that Obama wants to turn the internet over to? This risks foreign dictatorships defining the internet." The proposed transition is also likely to be politicized at an international level, says Lauren Weinstein, a veteran Internet policy expert. "Most of the issues involved in this area are primarily technical in nature," says Weinstein. "Unfortunately, in today's international environment, there is a real risk of this matter turning into a toxic global political football, which would obviously not be the best situation for making rational decisions about such complex matters." For now, the response from the U.S. private sector has been positive, and several major technology companies praised the U.S. announcement. "The internet was built to be borderless and this move toward a more multistakeholder model of governance creates an opportunity to preserve its security, stability and openness," Vint Cerf, Googles's chief Internet evangelist, said in a statement emailed to TIME. Len Cali, AT&T senior vice president of global public policy, called the transition "an important step in the ongoing evolution of the global Internet." Verizon was similarly upbeat. “We applaud NTIA for recognizing the global relevance of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions and the current maturity of multi-stakeholder frameworks," Craig Silliman, Verizon senior vice president for public policy, said in a statement. DeNardis is optimistic that the transition will go smoothly, but points out that there isn't even a proposal on the table to replace the U.S. as steward of the DNS. "I expect that everything will go well, but the Devil will be in the details," she says. "If everything goes as planned, everyone should still be able to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix."
The U.S. has long planned to give up its unique role as steward of the Internet's domain name system, but it's unclear what kind of entity will replace it

Watch many photographers today working on digital SLRs and you’ll see them shoot, pull the camera down to peek in the digital screen to check the image, then repeat. This action has become known as chimping, and old salts will say that it betrays the photographer as an amateur, because back in the days of film, once you took a photo, that was what you had.

But in the days of film, especially in a controlled setting, photographers often made redundant shots to make sure they captured what they wanted. Not Charles “Teenie” Harris. A native of Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the city’s cultural center of African-American life, Harris was a semi-pro athlete and a numbers runner before he bought his first camera in the 1930s. He opened a photography studio and specialized in glamour portraits, earning the nickname “One Shot” because he rarely made his subjects sit for a second take. Nearly 80 years later, a retrospective of the photographer’s work is on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

“One Shot” Harris freelanced for the Pittsburgh Courier, chronicling the life of black neighborhoods throughout the city. In 1953, he closed his portrait studio, and for the next 20 years, he captured the late Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, photographing Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and dozens of others who shaped the late 20th century. But Harris is most remembered for his images of daily life—urban landscapes, social gatherings, musical performances and sports from boxing to Negro League baseball. He captured the vibrant times and slow death of the Crawford Grill, perhaps the most famous jazz club in the Hill District.

Harris made more than 80,000 images in his career, nearly 60,000 of which have been scanned and catalogued by the Carnegie Museum of Art. The Museum maintains a searchable archive online and a retrospective exhibition of Harris’ work will run until April 7, allowing visitors to see an era and a place captured one single shot at a time.

Teenie Harris, Photographer is on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh through April 7.

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