IDN Response and summary to the Cairo public forum
This is a IDN Response and Summary to the Cairo public forum that took place on 6 November 2008.
A PDF version of full document is available at: http://www.icann.org/en/participate/cairo-public-forum-response.pdf
- Applicant Guidebook
SUBJECT AREA: IDNs and IDN ccTLDs
ICANN Staff response: We are aware of the concerns that people have regarding the IDN Fast Track – where a limited number of internationalized domain names (IDNs) are approved before a full policy is developed by the country-code names supporting organization (ccNSO).
However, with respect to the fears raised about governments having some form of control over this space, we believe this stems from a misunderstanding of what ICANN is doing with regard to internationalized domain names.
First off, it should be noted that IDN applications will be accepted as part of the new gTLDs process. That means that anyone following the gTLD Applicant Guidebook requirements will be able to apply for a top-level domain in their script or language.
There are additional criteria that need to be considered for IDNs (all of which are outlined in the Applicant Guidebook). However, applications for IDNs will be accepted and will be introduced at the same time as other gTLDs.
The ccTLD Fast Track on the other hand covers a very specific type of IDN – namely, those domain names that represent the name of a country or a territory.
During the course of the policy processes that the community has gone through over the past year or more, both governments (through the Governmental Advisory Committee, or GAC) and country-code managers (through the ccNSO) expressed their concerns about people applying for new top-level domains that represent the names of their countries or their existing top-level domains.
It has long been a rule that new generic top-level domains must be made up of at least three letters. One-letter TLDs are held back for technical reasons; and two-letter TLDs are reserved for use by the countries of the world i.e. .de for Germany; .jp for Japan; .us for the United States (and are based on an international standard).
The addition of TLDs in other languages and scripts complicates this system. Firstly, in some scripts whole words can be produced using a single character. Secondly, taking Japan’s ccTLD as an example, .jp is an ASCII representation for Japan, but Japan has its own script that does not use “j” or “p”. The countries of the world are justifiably proud of their own ccTLDs – many of which represent the Internet itself to their peoples – and so they have asserted that they have a right to have their language equivalent of their ccTLD.
In the same vein, many governments are concerned that individuals or companies will register top-level domains that represent the country. To use Japan again as an example, something like “.japan” or the equivalent of .japan in Japanese script.
It is for these reasons that the ccNSO is embarking on a policy development process to decide how to resolve such applications. Since this process will take some time, and because of the significant demand that has built up for TLDs in other scripts, the ccTLD Fast Track was created to allow for the creation of IDN TLDs that both the GAC and the ccNSO could agree would not be challenged (it should be noted, incidentally, that The Fast Track is based and builds upon the current IANA practices for the delegation of ccTLDs).
This means that those IDNs that come through the Fast Track will, by design, need the endorsement (or non-objection) of the relevant public authority, which in many cases will be a government department. At the same time, it must also meet the need of that particular community and the community must demonstrate that they are ready to implement the IDN ccTLD.
That is very different from saying that governments will have controls over IDNs or even IDN ccTLDs, however. Although it is true that IDNs that denote a specific country will be unlikely to make it through the new gTLD application process (as they are likely to be considered part of the ccTLD Fast Track), the whole world of top-level domains in different scripts is open to those that wish to apply.
So while a Japanese organization will not succeed with an application for .japan, or .jp in Japanese script, it will be able to apply for something that has meaning to Japanese Internet users in their own language. So, for example, cartoons are extremely popular in Japan. If an organization felt there would be sufficient interest in a whole area of the Internet dedicated to cartoons, it could apply for .cartoon in Japanese script.
So the ccTLD Fast Track is not stifling competition at the ccTLD level any more than current practices. While at the same time, the new gTLD process will hugely increase the opportunities for competition for Internet users across the world and in their own languages by allowing IDNs.
The three-letter rule for new gTLDs does not work in some scripts where one character can represent an entity (William Tan, individual)
ICANN Staff response: Thank you for this feedback and for highlighting the disparity that can be created by applying English-language rules and assumptions onto other scripts and languages.
The example given in the public forum of “.cat” being represented by a single character in Chinese but also being represented by many more than one character in the domain name system itself (all domains in non-ASCII scripts being represented a the technical level by the ASCII prefix “xn--“) was a helpful illustration.
Please be assured that ICANN will carefully review whether and how the three-character rule can be applied with regard to IDNs. As always with IDNs, however, the fact that there are many thousands of different scripts, each with its own attributes, means the issue is likely to be complex.
If it is indeed possible to waive the three-character rules for IDNs, or certain types of IDN, without detrimental impact elsewhere, ICANN will follow that path. As it currently stands, single-letter characters will not be allowed for technical reasons and two-character domains are held back because of the traditional use of the ISO list for defining country-code TLDs. We are waiting on further public comments to guide final recommendations.
ICANN Staff response: Staff is working as fast as possible to get both processes implemented and currently it looks like they will go live at the same time.
However, should one of the processes be delayed then this will not slow down the launch of the other process, as was suggested in earlier comments. As of today there is no specific launch date for either process.
The situation is complicated by the work being done by the IETF on an IDNA protocol standard. We sincerely hope that the IDNA protocol will be finished in time for the rollout of gTLD applications (which will include IDNs) but we are preparing to go ahead without the protocol being finalized.
If you are confused about the introduction of IDNs through the so-called Fast Track and how that relates to the new gTLD process, please see an earlier answer above for more context.