Inside of a secure data center in El Segundo, California, just a few hundred feet from the Los Angeles airport, a bunch of crypto nerds gather a few times a year to perform a ceremony that keeps the internet running.
The ceremony is administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, an L.A.-based nonprofit that performs the physical maintenance of the internet.
Seven volunteer computer-networking experts from around the world attend the ICANN ceremony, each armed with a key to a safe. These keys unlock smartcards, which are used as part of a process that secures DNS, or the Domain Name System, of the internet. That system is what directs you to a website after a URL is typed into a browser, and if this ceremony weren’t performed, the internet as we know it would stop working.