Before we can answer who is in control of the Internet, it’s good to know a little about the history and fundamentals of it.
The first successful message over the Internet was sent in 1969 from UCLA to Stanford. They tried to send the word “login.” They were able to send “lo” and then the system crashed.
The Internet came out of ARPANET. It was created by DARPA. They are the ones who create technologies for national security. Slowly they have started to open it up for researchers and the public.
Why did the military want to create the Internet? Because of nuclear war. They wanted to be able to communicate even if there was a nuclear incident. Telecommunication back then was built on the circuit network.
The new system that was supposed to replace it was the packet-switching network. Messages are split into packets. The packets are addressed to the same destination. The packets are reassembled into the message at the recipient. They may travel the same or different routes to the destination.
We use TCP/IP for the rules of communication on the Internet. It stands for Transmission Control Protocol. HTTP uses TCP.
The World Wide Web
The Internet and the World Wide Web are different things. The WWW started in the early 1990s. You can think of the Internet as all of the hardware (the servers, satellites, fiber optic cables, etc.). The World Wide Web is a service that runs on the Internet.
Hypertext is text with links which can be clicked to take you somewhere else. Hypertext has hyperlinks. There is a markup language for it.
In 1989 he wrote a proposal for a large hypertext database with typed links.
He considered several names, including Information Mesh, The Information Mine or Mine of Information, but settled on World Wide Web.
In 1990 he created the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, the Hyper Text Markup Language, the first browser and the first web server.
In 1991 the first web server outside of CERN was switched on, and the rest is history (pun intended).
So who controls all this?
Does DARPA still control the Internet?
There is no one person or organization who controls the Internet. There are several standards organizations who make recommendations how it should be interpreted. There is of course money and big organizations involved who want to influence the standards, sitting in the boards of the standards organizations.
W3C – World Wide Web Consortium: an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Yahoo are all members. They make recommendations on how the web should evolve.
WHATWG – smaller than W3C.
IETF – Internet Engineering Task Force – deals with more technical issues.
There are others. See Wikipedia Web Standards.
Each country has its own jurisdiction. Things that are legal in one jurisdiction may be illegal in others. This makes for interesting cases when it comes to companies working in multiple jurisdictions.
Some Telecom companies want to charge more for better internet access. They basically want a fast-lane and a slow-lane. There is a huge movement to keep the internet neutral. Unfortunately, the Trump government favored the Telecom lobby and allowed this kind of discrimination.
Innovators also influence the Internet.
The best way to predict the future is to invent it. (Alan Kay)
People always find new and innovative ways to use the internet. An example right now is WebRTC.
To sum it all up, there is no one organization who controls the internet. Many different organizations influence it. That freedom and lack of centralized control make it a really special place.