By Jon Lawrence
The introduction of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) as Top Level Domains is one of the most significant developments in the short history of the internet and represents a fundamental improvement in user experience for the billions of people worldwide whose native languages use non-Latin character sets.
As part of its public consultation process, ICANN has just released a (third) revised version of the Draft Implementation Plan for the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process. This program has been designed by ICANN to allow the rapid introduction of a small number of IDN country-code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), in advance of the resolution of the outstanding policy and technical issues.
A public comment period will now run through the next ICANN Meeting in Sydney (21st to 26th June) until the 15th July 2009. The aim is to finalise the Fast Track process by the ICANN meeting in Seoul in October 2009, with the first IDN ccTLD set to be implemented soon after that.
This version of the Draft Implementation Plan is the last draft to be issued and many of the issues from previous drafts are now considered resolved, based on feedback from the ICANN community. Additionally, supporting documents on the following topics have been published to inform participants about the outstanding issues:
• Definition of the relationship between ICANN and IDN ccTLD managers
• Proposed financial contributions (to ICANN) from IDN ccTLD managers
• The process for handling contention issues with existing TLDs and new gTLD applications
• The development and usage of IDN tables and character variants
We strongly support the Fast Track process and are generally pleased with the progress that has been made to this point. There is a great deal of technical and policy complexity involved in the issue and ICANN have been carefully negotiating all of the hurdles in front of them. For example, character variants which form just a part of the process are likely to be a headache for ccTLD managers wishing to implement an IDN ccTLD.
Our development team have just finalised the upgrades to our Registry Systems to support IDN ccTLDs, working initially with our clients in the United Arab Emirates to provide an Arabic ccTLD. The team came up with some innovative solutions that provide the high levels of flexibility and configurability needed to manage the significant policy complexities with IDNs, without sacrificing on our high system performance standards.
We look forward to watching the ongoing development of IDNs and working with our clients around the world to help them deliver world class Registry Services.
For more detail and to review the Draft Implementation Plan and supporting documentation, please see ICANN’s announcement.
See also the Fast Track webpage.