Archive for October 2009

This will change the World of Internet

Here at Seoul 36th ICANN Meeting, ICANN Board has just approved to Launch “IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program”. Application Period for IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program is going to be start on 16th Nov. The new rules for IDN Script are as follows: 1. the string must be a minimum of two characters long (U-label), [...]

ICANN Bringing the Languages of the World to the Global Internet

Seoul: The first Internet addresses containing non-Latin characters from start to finish will soon be online thanks to today’s approval of the new Internationalized Domain Name Fast Track Process by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers board. “The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the Internet since it [...]

Shouldn’t Tea Time for Kenya Mean IDN Top-Level Domains?

Anyone who knows Kenya knows it is famous for tea. And while I can now get Kenyan tea online from US companies like Starbucks, Caribou Coffee or any number of other re-sellers, like most consumers I would vastly prefer to cut out the middle man and buy my tea direct from Kenyan companies. Why not?

But here’s the rub. Besides me and a significant number of Brits, who buys Kenyan tea? According to Kenya’s Department of Agriculture, after the UK the three largest buyers of Kenyan tea are Egypt, Pakistan, and Sudan. In fact, the Arabic speaking Middle East accounts for about 25% of world tea purchases.

To reach these customers directly, Kenyan tea producers really need the ability to “speak their language” on the web—to provide websites and web addresses that are all in Arabic or Urdu. However, since today’s internet doesn’t allow website names in anything but Roman characters after the dot, we’ve got to wait for ICANN to enable these Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).

Monday night here in Seoul ICANN held a reception to celebrate the coming of IDNs for country code domains (like .eg for Egypt). It was a love fest, complete with cocktails, slide shows and commemorative t-shirts. And it’s true, ICANN should be complimented for this advance—however belated.

Still, as I sat there talking with delegates from Kenya I was struck by just how limited a victory this will be—and what a missed opportunity it is—for existing and potential e-businesses. Even to reach their best Arabic-speaking markets with an all-Arabic website, no Kenyan company is likely to go through the trouble and expense of buying IDN domains in more than 20 Arabic-speaking countries.

So where does that leave the Kenyan tea industry? If I were the Kenya Tea Development Agency, Ltd I would want to keep it simple. What I would really want is the Arabic version of the website I already have—www.ktdateas.com.

In the end the issue of IDNs shouldn’t be about linguistics or politics, but about economic growth and development, about making the Internet more accessible for the billions of new users and businesses coming online every day. Now that ICANN has committed to make IDN ccTLDs available, why not make the most common existing TLDs—like .com and.org—next in line?

If, as the proverb goes, “tea is liquid wisdom” then ICANN should have a cup or two… then get about the business of bringing global TLDs to the IDN space.

Written by Andrew Mack, Principal at AMGlobal Consulting

IDN Introduction Biggest Technical Change to Internet in Its 40-Year History, Says ICANN Chairman

The Internet is on the verge of undergoing one of its most significant changes in its 40-year history. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is finalizing plans to introduce non-Latin characters such as Arabic, Korean, Greek, Hindi, Japanese and Cyrillic. Non-Latin domain names—commonly referred to as Internationalized Domain Names or IDNs—could be up and running as early as middle of next year according to ICANN. Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the ICANN board, told reporters: “This is the biggest change technically to the Internet since it was invented 40 years ago… [a] fantastically complicated technical feature.”

IDNs in cc-Minor: an Unfinished Symphony

When he wanted to show the transformative and unifying power of the Internet to open this week’s ICANN meeting in Seoul, ICANN President Rod Beckstrom had an ace in the hole: Korean guitarist Jay (Jeong-hyun Lim), who became a global YouTube sensation with his hard-rocking version of Pachelbel’s Canon.

As I watched Jay wail on his gold-plated guitar to standing ovations, I couldn’t help but think of Rod waxing that the Internet was a “symphony” of ideas and voices from around the world.

Rod’s right, of course. The Internet is a symphony of ideas, and the challenge of ICANN has always been to help everyone hear what everyone else is playing.

Which is why it’s so perplexing to me that in one of ICANN’s biggest initiatives—the introduction of internationalized domains—the organization is trying to open a new symphony with most of the orchestra missing.

The single most important thing ICANN can do to expand the global reach of the Internet is the introduction of top-level domains in non-Latin character sets. Over half the world’s population uses alphabets other than Latin, so these internationalized domain names (IDNs) will finally let them read and write domain names and email addresses in their native languages.

But under ICANN’s current plan, the symphony heard by IDN users speakers will be a mere echo of the symphony that the rest of us enjoy. That’s because the only IDN domains initially allowed are in country-code domains controlled by governments, like China’s .cn, Syria’s .sy, and Iran’s .ir.

Under ICANN’s “fast-track” process, the IDN country-code domains go live first, while IDN versions of global domains like .com and .org will languish in bureaucratic process for at least another year.

It’s curious that Rod chose a YouTube sensation to demonstrate the Internet’s symphonic impact, because IDN users won’t be able to type in the equivalent of YouTube.com, the site that made Jay an international sensation.

That’s right. Jay was inspired by, and discovered on Youtube.com, but there won’t be a Youtube.com in Korean, or Chinese, or Arabic until 2011 at the earliest.

What’s troubling about all of this is that IDN users may have less access to the free and open Internet that the rest of us take for granted. That’s because country-code domains are subject to more government control than are global generic domains: a government can suspend any domain in its ccTLD registry if they don’t like the content or conduct. In the wrong hands, this can become a brutally effective tool for suppressing free speech and expression.

For example, if you want to reach Iranian citizens via a domain in their native Farsi script, only Iran’s government can give it to you now. A Farsi version of global domains like .com and org isn’t going to be available until 2011 at the earliest.

Iran allows .ir domains only to organizations legally represented in Iran, individuals residing in Iran, and others “whose activity and the use of the domain name are not in conflict with the laws, practices and interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” If you can get a .ir domain, don’t expect to stay online if your videos or comments are critical of Iran’s foreign policy or the conduct of their recent elections.

Still like the sound of the new IDN symphony that ICANN is conducting? Let’s raise our lighters and demand that ICANN let the rest of the musicians play, too.

Written by Steve DelBianco

Proposed Final Implementation Plan: IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process

ICANN is pleased to announce the public posting of the Proposed Final Implementation Plan for the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process [PDF, 897K]. The IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process is an important step at making the Internet equally accessible for everyone. It will enable the introduction of a limited number of internationalized country-code top level [...]