Archive for the ‘ccTLDs’ Category

Russia’s Cyrillic IDN ccTLD blasts off through the 500K mark in under a week

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

Since last Thursday’s launch of Russia’s Cyrillic script IDN ccTLD, registration volumes have smashed all expectations, much like a Soyuz rocket blasting off into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

At the time of writing (14:00 17/11/2010 UTC), .рф, which is Cyrillic for RF (short for Российская Федерация – Russian Federation) has just exceeded 500,000 registrations, having passed the 100,000 mark in the first three hours. It is already among the top 30 ccTLDs worldwide and heading towards the top 20 at high speed. Andrei Kolesnikov, Director of ccTLD.ru, the organisation that manages both .рф and Russia’s ASCII script .ru ccTLD, said last week that he expected there would be ‘as many as 100,000’ domains registered in .рф by the end of 2010. Clearly, he was somewhat conservative with this projection! Less than two months after .ru joined the 3 million club, it is far from idle speculation to now start thinking about when .рф will overtake its older sibling.

It is also worth considering that the other recent TLD launch that has attracted significant registration volumes – the launch of second-level registrations under Colombia’s .co – took two months to hit the half million mark. .рф managed that feat in only six days.

Registrations in .рф are restricted to Russian citizens and Russian-registered businesses and are priced at the same level as for .ru. RU Center – the largest Registrar in Russia – are selling both .ru and .рф for 600 Rubles, a shade under US$20.00 at current exchange rates. There are a total of 26 registrars currently accredited for .рф. The .рф string was selected in preference to a direct transliteration of ‘RU’ which would be ‘PY’ in Cyrillic, due to potential visual conflict with Paraguay’s existing .py ASCII script ccTLD.

According to ccTLD.ru, the most popular letters in the addresses registered in the first hour were ы and я — Cyrillic characters with no equivalent in the Roman script. Clearly, the demand for domain names including these characters has been building since the internet became an everyday phenomenon in Russia.

Even if we assume that a large proportion of registrations are speculative at this early stage, the launch of .рф cannot be regarded as anything but a huge success. This success proves that there is real community demand for native script Top-Level Domains, and bodes well for the prospects of other IDN Top-Level Domains, in both the ccTLD and gTLD contexts. It can also been seen as a vindication of the ICANN Board’s decision to proceed with the IDN ccTLD program on a ‘Fast Track’, ahead of the finalisation of the new gTLD program, due to a perception of strong demand, particularly from the Russian and Chinese language communities. The reality of that demand has now been conclusively established.

As Milton Mueller pointed out back in 2007, the Fast Track program has created an opportunity for IDN ccTLDs to establish themselves in the market before the introduction of a wave of new gTLDs, which will likely include dozens, if not hundreds of IDN gTLDs covering dozens of scripts.

We look forward with eager anticipation to the launch of other IDN ccTLDs, including Qatar’s قطر. which was recently approved for delegation by the ICANN Board. To date, ICANN have approved 34 IDN ccTLD strings, from 21 countries and covering 13 different scripts. 15 of these 34 strings have been delegated into the root. See ICANN’s String Evaluation Completion page for the full list.

AusRegistry International is the Domain Name Registry Software and Services provider for the United Arab Emirates’ .ae and امارات. (.emarat) ccTLDs and for Qatar’s .qa and قطر. (.qatar) ccTLDs.

URL shorteners, domain hacks and quasi-gTLDs: what are ccTLDs really about?

Friday, October 15th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

The Twitterverse is awash with catchy URL shortening services, which allow what would otherwise be long URLs to fit within the strict character limit of individual Tweets. Before the Twitter phenomenon really took hold, tinyurl.com was one of the more popular services; now much shorter options are available, using various ccTLDs which have the significant advantage of being only two characters after the dot.

Some of the more high-profile recent examples include Twitter’s t.co, Google’s goo.gl, Facebook’s fb.me and US National Public Radio’s n.pr. For the ccTLDs concerned, these domain names represent invaluable exposure to a global audience and are probably one of the single most effective marketing initiatives they will undertake.

Similarly, the popularity of domain hacks, one form of which involves ignoring the dot to spell out a brand or word – examples include del.icio.us and blo.gs – offer another opportunity for showcasing a ccTLD to a potentially global audience.

The promotional opportunity is particularly attractive for smaller ccTLDs. Greenland’s .gl and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands’ .gs are not ccTLDs that receive much, if any, attention from outsiders, except perhaps from the most diligent Trademark attorneys at some of the world’s largest corporations.

Chasing the promotional benefits of URL-shortening services and domain hacks is not without its risks however, as Libya has recently discovered. The bit.ly URL service is one of the most popular in use within the Twitterverse, and has given Libya’s .ly ccTLD a significant global profile. Other URL shortening services have followed bit.ly’s lead, including vb.ly, which was pitched with the following tag line:

The Internet’s first and only sex-positive link shortener service, meaning links are not filtered or groomed, and we’ll never pull your links because we decided to become “family friendly” .

It was rather naive to expect that a socially conservative country such as Libya would not have an issue with a website that portrays itself in these terms, and it was therefore unsurprising that NIC.LY last month revoked the vb.ly domain name, citing concerns that the service was not in keeping with Sharia Law. They have also revised the registration policy for .ly to restrict registrations of less than four characters to locally-registered entities, thereby effectively preventing any new URL shortening services from using the .ly ccTLD.

It is of course NIC.LY’s right to manage their ccTLD in a way that suits the specific legal and cultural realities of contemporary Libyan society, as it is for all other ccTLD Managers. Those that wish to take advantage of the combination of short domain names at relatively low cost for use with URL shorteners should therefore consider carefully which ccTLD they choose to utilise for this purpose.

There are of course many countries that have chosen to leverage their luck in the ccTLD lottery by re-purposing their ccTLD as quasi-gTLDs and offering them on an unrestricted basis to the global market. These include Tuvalu’s .tv, American Samoa’s .as (AS is an abbreviation of a common company type in some European countries), Niue’s .nu (Nu means ‘now’ in Dutch, Danish and Swedish), and more recently, Montenegro’s .me and Colombia’s .co.

The attractions of such a move are obvious for countries with a memorable ccTLD, a very small population and few other sources of income, as the re-purposing of their ccTLD represents an opportunity to earn valuable export income.

The number of ccTLDs that are in a position to follow suit is however very limited, particularly with the spectre of hundreds of new gTLDs on the horizon.

Somalia is about to launch their .so ccTLD to the global market, and while I expect that it will be moderately successful, it is unlikely to achieve the hundreds of thousands of registrations seen in some other re-purposed ccTLDs, at least for the foreseeable future. The publicity generated by the Libyan registry’s recent crackdown is also likely to give many potential registrants pause for thought about the longer-term prospects for a ccTLD governed by a country that suffers from endemic political instability.

Even one of the most successful re-purposed ccTLDs, Tuvalu’s .tv – operated by Verisign since 2000 under a long-term arrangement with the Tuvalu Government – is failing to live up to some expectations within Tuvalu, despite accounting for close to 10% of the Government’s total revenue (see the Australia Network’s article: Threat to Tuvalu’s proud domain).

Governments and national regulators that are considering the future of their ccTLDs should therefore be careful to avoid being dazzled by the windfall revenue gains that going after the global market may appear to offer. It is highly unlikely that we will again see a ccTLD achieve the success of the recent launch of second-level registrations under .co, which has reached over half a million names in a few short months. For the vast majority of ccTLDs, focusing on the needs of their local market will instead be the most appropriate course of action, particularly over the longer term.

The benefits to be gained from the development of local ccTLD infrastructure, and the skills and expertise required to operate it, will be significant in capacity-building terms and should form the basis for nurturing a sustainable local internet industry. A dynamic local internet industry will help to bridge the digital divide and promote the myriad of social and economic opportunities that the internet has to offer.

Similarly, implementing policies developed in conjunction with local stakeholders and appropriate to the local legal, cultural and economic situation, along with effective awareness campaigns and marketing activities should help to ensure that the local ccTLD becomes the TLD of choice for local businesses and organisations.

ICANN’s new gTLD program however has the potential to overwhelm many ccTLDs that are yet to establish themselves as the TLD of choice in their local market, with hundreds of new TLDs expected to be introduced, likely from around early 2012.

The already highly competitive global market is therefore about to become even more so. Those considering the future of their ccTLD should be mindful of this in their planning activities and should ensure they focus on sustainable, local outcomes.

The Window of Opportunity for ccTLDs

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

The announcement that .co has already achieved over 450,000 new registrations since the opening up of the second-level a month ago demonstrates that there is strong demand in the global domain name marketplace for quality new domain spaces.

Though .co is the country-code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) for Colombia, the second-level registrations (ie company.co) are available on a global basis and it is being pitched as a direct competitor to the dominant .com gTLD. Google has altered its algorithm to increase the relevance of search results in the .co domain by treating .co as a gTLD and allowing .co website owners to specify the geographic regions they are targeting.  Though .CO Internet has the freedom enjoyed by all ccTLDs of not having to operate under ICANN’s policy framework, they have elected to adopt policies that very closely match that framework, including the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

The launch of second-level registrations under .co therefore represents, to all intents and purposes, a new gTLD launch, and appears to be a popular alternative to .com for both large corporations and small businesses, at least at this early stage.  Overstock’s purchase of o.co for US$350,000 shows a high degree of confidence in the new .co brand, and Twitter has also joined their list of high-profile anchor tenants, launching t.co as a secure URL shortening service.  Anecdotal evidence also suggests that small businesses are taking the opportunity to secure names within this new space that they had been unable to register in .com or other spaces.

The .co launch is just the latest in a long line of examples of the opportunistic repositioning of ccTLDs to compete in the global market against the ‘official’ gTLDs.  Colombia, like Montenegro (.me) and Tuvalu (.tv) and a number of others are simply leveraging their luck in the two character assignment lottery by opening up their ccTLD to the world.  Both Colombia and Montenegro have however tried to maintain the best of both worlds by reserving third-level registrations (such as .com.co and .co.me) for local entities, thereby providing trusted and dedicated domain spaces for the domestic market, while reaping the benefits of having a desirable ccTLD extension by opening up the second-level to the world.

Despite the fact that they are globally-focused and effectively gTLDs, the success of .co and .me highlights the market opportunity that currently exists for other ccTLDs that are yet to establish a clear market position.  Of course, the vast majority of countries do not have the opportunity to reposition themselves as gTLDs to chase the global market, and in most cases there will be a clear preference to focus on the needs of the local market.

A report (PDF) released by Eurid (the .eu Registry) in June highlights the power that well-established and effectively managed ccTLDs can exert in their local markets.  In Sweden, for example, the local .se ccTLD scored nearly 100% in terms of awareness and 49% for preference, compared with only 34% for .com.  Similar rankings are likely to be enjoyed by other well-established ccTLDs, and we’ve seen similar numbers in relation to the position of .au in Australia.

Many ccTLDs however face a raft of challenges that are preventing them from achieving anything like this sort of local market position.  These challenges can include the absence of local control, legacy systems, inefficient registration processes and restrictive policies, as well as a general lack of local capacity.

When ICANN’s new gTLD program finally comes to fruition (likely towards the latter part of 2011), there will be a dramatic increase in choice for prospective domain name registrants across all regions and language groups.  Those ccTLDs that are yet to position themselves as the pre-eminent domain space and default choice in their local markets therefore have a finite window of opportunity in which to do so, to ensure that they are not consigned to relative obscurity in the face of dozens of new Top Level Domains.

One Billion Internet Users

Monday, July 12th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

Last week ICANN took another very significant step forward in the expansion of the internet by approving the delegation of a number of Chinese script IDN ccTLDs.

Although we have all heard statements that portray the introduction of IDN ccTLDs as being perhaps the single most important factor in the achievement of ICANN’s “One World, One Internet” vision, we should take a moment to appreciate the true significance of this latest round of IDN ccTLD approvals.

There are over one billion people in the Chinese language community, an audience that until last week required some knowledge of the Latin alphabet to navigate the internet using the Domain Name System. Even with a basic grasp of the Latin alphabet, the painful usability issue of having to switch between Chinese and Latin keyboard layouts has been a significant barrier for many end-users.

chinese add

The significance of introducing IDN ccTLDs into the Chinese language context is not just about improving accessibility, however.

We should spare a thought for the marketing managers who are tasked with communicating to an audience of over a billion Chinese consumers.

At first glance it seems like a brilliant opportunity, however it becomes a little tougher once you consider the following…

You’re running a traditional advertising campaign. You have the right brand, you’ve developed the right message and you finally have people reading and wanting to respond to your ads. All that’s required from here is the ability to drive website traffic directly from your advertisement, but you only have a Latin-based Domain Name at your disposal.

What do you think your chances of success are if your audience is unable to understand what your Latin-based domain name is?

Very little, next to none, even. In this context, the big bad (and expensive) world of search engine marketing is your only fall-back.

While I don’t profess to be fluent in Chinese, the advertisement I have included above is an example of how difficult it currently is for Chinese marketers to generate effective direct response advertising and achieve messaging efficiency.

The latest round of IDN ccTLD delegations will change all of this and change it in a big way.

Once Chinese IDN ccTLDs are introduced, more consumers will be drawn to the internet as language and usability barriers are removed. Internet penetration should accelerate and marketers will find themselves operating in a world where the doors of direct-response marketing will be flung wide open. Message recall and direct, browser-based website traffic should improve dramatically and Chinese marketers will finally be able to include a website as the primary call to action with a high level of confidence that it will succeed.

When you consider these points in the context of the sheer size of the Chinese language market, it’s easy to see the importance of this latest list of delegations to the overall success of the IDN Fast Track program.

Both China and Taiwan have had Simplified and Traditional script versions of their IDN ccTLDs approved. These are to be managed as ‘Synchronised IDN ccTLDs’, which means that both versions should resolve to the same address.

Hong Kong is spared this additional level of complexity by the simple fact that ‘Hong Kong’ is written using the same characters in both script versions. Domain names registered under .香港 will be issued both Traditional and Simplified variants, however.

The Chinese IDN ccTLDs that will soon be delegated into the root are therefore as follows:

China
.中国 (Simplified)
.中國 (Traditional)

Hong Kong
.香港

TWNIC
.台湾 (Simplified)
.台灣 (Traditional)

Recently, IANA also announced that three further IDN ccTLDs have passed the String Evaluation Phase. These are:

سوريا. (.syria – Arabic)

.新加坡 (.singapore – Chinese)
.சிங்கப்பூர் (.singapore – Tamil)

We would like to congratulate CNNIC, TWNIC and HKIRC on having their Chinese IDN ccTLD delegations approved. We would also like to congratulate SGNIC and Syria’s National Agency for Network Services on passing the String Evaluation Phase.

AusRegistry International is a strong supporter of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program and is a leading provider of IDN-enabled Domain Name Registry Software and Consulting Services to ccTLD Managers. We are currently supporting the launch of the Arabic script امارات. (.emarat) IDN ccTLD for the United Arab Emirates as well as the قطر. (.qatar) Arabic script IDN ccTLD for Qatar.

By the way, Your IDN is live

Friday, May 7th, 2010

By Adrian Kinderis

Just when you think ICANN has got it right, it shoots itself in the foot as only ICANN can.

Unfortunately it seems this is yet another case of one step forward and two steps back.

While we should be celebrating the fact that Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) have finally been entered into the Root Zone, we are instead left shaking our heads at the seemingly nonexistent process lines nor communication lines between ICANN and its technical off-shoot IANA.

Before I delve into the embarrassing incompetency of IANA, let us not lose sight of the overall achievement. IDNs have been championed by many people both at a technical and administrative level – not the least of which is Tina Dam, Senior Director of IDNs at ICANN and her team.  They are an excellent example of tireless dedication and professionalism and Tina herself has devoted a large part of her ICANN career to ensure that IDNs are successfully implemented. She and all those who have worked on this massive body of work should be proud of their efforts. It is a monumental achievement and will be an impressive legacy.

The events of yesterday must have disappointed them greatly.

So what has me (and many others) ticked off? Well read on…

It is my understanding that the responsible IANA staff member failed to provide prior notification to the relevant ccTLD Managers that these names were about to be entered into the Root Zone.  While that is a very significant concern in its own right, I was alarmed to discover that the relevant ccTLD Managers were only notified many hours after the fact, long after the same IANA staff member had broadcast the news on a personal Twitter account, and even, I believe, after posting an update on the ICANN blog.

IANA staff seem to have viewed this as simply another technical update, which they were at liberty to publicise as they saw fit, without first having the courtesy to inform the most directly affected stakeholders.

This was an inappropriate manner in which to announce an event of this importance. It displays a disturbing lack of understanding and a complete disregard of the cultural and political significance of this event within the Arabic world.

I believe that IANA should take a more coordinated approach to all of its responsibilities, particularly to the addition of new TLDs to the Root Zone, to ensure that the requesting parties are given sufficient prior notice before changes are made.  This is of particular importance in a case such as this where multiple TLDs are being added simultaneously.  It is not clear, for example, whether IANA staff were even aware that this change took place during the middle of the weekend in one of the affected countries. Did they even care to check?

With a further 18 IDN ccTLDs in progress towards delegation, and the prospect of hundreds of new gTLDs to be delegated when the new gTLD program comes to fruition, it is critical that IANA’s communication and coordination procedures be carefully planned and considerate of the needs of the affected TLD Managers.

For me, the fact that certain IANA staff feel it is appropriate to put ‘I run the DNS root zone’ on their Twitter profile, says it all.  Just because you run it doesn’t mean you own it. This cozy university mentality is simply not good enough for an organisation running the most critical component of the global communications network. Your technical function, like it or not, has much broader implications.

Put simply, there is an attitude of arrogance at IANA that they will work to their timelines, and so must we. In this instance, the occasion was bigger than them. To the countries involved, countries with which we are working very closely, it was much more. This marks an historically significant achievement and advancement of the Internet in their communities.

Instead of allowing them the opportunity to celebrate their achievement they have been left to scuttle around and attempt to pull together press releases and notify the appropriate representatives of their countries. Not giving them an appropriate “heads up” and therefore making them look underprepared is unforgiveable – especially when you had previously provided an indication of “up to a month” before these delegations would occur. IANA has shown little respect for their key stakeholders and it simply isn’t good enough.

For what it is worth, congratulations to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates from the team at AusRegistry International. You can be sure that we respect your efforts and achievements as much more than a simple entry into the Root Zone. We wish you every success.

First IDN ccTLDs approved for delegation

Monday, April 26th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

The ICANN Board has taken another step towards the realisation of their vision of ‘One World, one Internet, everyone connected’ with their approval of the delegation requests for the first IDN ccTLDs.

These first four non-Latin script ccTLDs are as follows:
امارات. (.emarat), Arabic script – United Arab Emirates
مصر. (.masr), Arabic script – Egypt
.рф (.rf), Cyrillic script – Russian Federation
السعودية . (.alsaudiah), Arabic script – Saudi Arabia

IANA will now commence the process of adding these IDN ccTLDs to the Root Zone, subject to sign-off by the US Department of Commerce.

There are nine other IDN ccTLD requests which have passed the string evaluation phase but are yet to have their delegations approved, with the latest being Jordan’s الاردن. (.al-ordon), which reached this stage of the process last week. ICANN staff are working on another six applications, bringing the total number of applications to 19, representing 11 languages.

AusRegistry International is providing assistance to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE in support of the launch of the امارات. (.emarat) Arabic script IDN ccTLD, and we are honoured to be involved in this important step in extending the reach of the internet to the billions of people around the world who use non-Latin scripts.

See our press release about this project.

ICANN to hold webinars on Synchronized IDN ccTLDs

Friday, April 9th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

Next week, ICANN will be holding two webinars to discuss the Proposed Implementation Plan for Synchronized IDN ccTLDs.

Synchronized IDN ccTLDs are those where there are two variations of a particular script in common usage, and an expectation on the part of users that they will be able to use either variation to navigate to a particular website or other resource.

The most obvious example is Chinese, which has both Traditional and Simplified variations in common usage.  China and Taiwan have requested both variations of their IDN ccTLDs to be delegated.

The Implementation Plan for Synchronized IDN ccTLDs will determine the operational rules which will be the basis on which those delegations will be approved.  It is ICANN’s intention that Synchronized IDN ccTLDs will function as interchangeably as possible, though they will in a technical sense be separate delegations.

AusRegistry International is a leading provider of IDN-enabled Domain Name Registry Software and associated services and is actively assisting a number of ccTLD Managers around the world to implement their IDN ccTLDs.  For more information about our IDN-related services, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

ICANN has extended the Public Comment period for this Proposed Implementation Plan until 17th April.

The webinars will be conducted next Thursday, 15th April at 0100 UTC and 1400 UTC.

Links
Webinar details
Proposed Implementation Plan for Synchronized IDN ccTLDs
Questions & Answers (Q&A)
Public Comment website

.yu domain consigned to history

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

At 12 noon Belgrade time on Tuesday (30th March), the .yu ccTLD domain space was due to be deactivated, finally laying to rest one of the last vestiges of the former state of Yugoslavia.

The .yu ccTLD was originally assigned to the University of Maribor and the Jozef Stefan Institute, both in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  When the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke apart in the early 1990s, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia* and finally Bosnia-Herzegovina seceded from the union, and were subsequently assigned their own ccTLDs – .si for Slovenia, .hr for Croatia (Hrvatska), .mk for Macedonia* in 1993, and .ba for Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996.

Meanwhile, in 1994, the .yu ccTLD was transferred to the University of Belgrade, reflecting the reality of the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which now comprised only Serbia and Montenegro.  This state renamed itself Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 and a new ccTLD (.cs) was reserved, to replace .yu.  The .cs ccTLD was never delegated though and in 2006 Montenegro became independent, leading to the separate countries being assigned the .rs (Serbia) and .me (Montenegro) ccTLDs.

The .rs and .me ccTLDs both went live in late 2007.  At the same time, .yu was reassigned to the Serbian National Register of Internet Domain Names (RNIDS), the new ccTLD Manager for Serbia’s .rs ccTLD.

RNIDS has been working hard to migrate the remaining .yu domain name holders across to .rs (or to .me, as appropriate) to enable the deactivation of .yu.  This was originally scheduled for 30th September 2009, however RNIDS successfully appealed to ICANN for a six-month stay of execution as there were still a few thousand active .yu sites at that point.

Last month, the 55,555th .rs domain name was registered.  The launch of .me has been even more successful, as it has been marketed as a global personal domain space.  To date, over 250,000 .me domain names have been registered.

There may be one chapter remaining in the story of ccTLDs of the former Yugoslavia.  The Republic of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008, though this is disputed by Serbia and it has yet to be recognised by a majority of United Nations member states.  Should Kosovo gain widespread acceptance as an independent state, then a new country-code will need to be assigned.  The obvious ones – .ks, .ko and .kv are all currently available.

RNIDS also recently announced that they will be applying for a Cyrillic script IDN ccTLD as part of ICANN’s IDN ccTLD Fast Track program.  It remains to be seen whether any of the other former Yugoslav republics in which Cyrillic is widely used will follow suit.

*Known officially as The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to differentiate it from the adjoining Greek province also known as Macedonia.

IDN ccTLD Fast Track developments

Friday, March 26th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

The IDN ccTLD Fast Track program is moving along rapidly, with ICANN’s announcement that both the Simplified and Traditional Chinese script versions of .china have passed the string evaluation phase of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program. Alongside this, ICANN have also announced the release of a proposed implementation plan for ‘Synchronised IDN ccTLDs’ that will create the rules by which these variant IDN ccTLDs will coexist.

A further seven IDN ccTLDs have also just passed the string evaluation phase, bringing to 15 the number of strings that have reached this stage, representing 12 countries and involving seven different scripts.

The Synchronised IDN ccTLD Implementation Plan is a big step forward for the IDN program and is the result of a very fast turnaround and some great work by the Equivalent Strings Working Group (ES-WG) set up by the ICANN Board just two weeks ago in Nairobi.

By ‘synchronised IDN ccTLDs’, ICANN means having two variants of a ccTLD delegated – for example, both the Simplified (.中国) and Traditional (.中國) Chinese script versions of .china will be added to the root and will function interchangeably, so that a user will be able to enter either version and be routed to the same website or service.

The principles drafted by the Working Group state that there must be ‘convergence at every level of the domain name’ and that there must be ‘adequate and verifiable procedures’ to ensure this occurs.

Chinese script variants have been available for some years at the second-level, in .cn and .hk, so there is considerable experience within the industry in managing this issue that will be valuable in informing the Working Group’s work.

Though the main focus at this stage is on the Chinese scripts, this issue will impact on both ccTLDs and gTLDs in other scripts as well.  Saudi Arabia, for example, have applied for three variants of their السعودية. (.alsaudiah) Arabic script IDN ccTLD.

The proposed implementation plan has been posted here and is open to public comment until 13th April, before the Board will consider the issue again at their meeting on 22nd April.

It is very encouraging to see the ICANN Board’s urgent commitment to the resolution of this important issue that will help to ensure the successful implementation of IDN ccTLDs, something for which many of our clients and some of the other billions of people around the world who don’t use Latin based scripts in their language have been waiting for a number of years.

AusRegistry International’s Domain Name Registry Software includes fully-configurable support for IDN variants and is being used for the امارات. (.emarat) Arabic script IDN ccTLD for the United Arab Emirates as well as the قطر. (.qatar) Arabic script IDN ccTLD for Qatar.

See ICANN’s announcement about the Synchronised IDN Implementation Plan.

The other countries that have just passed the string evaluation phase are:

Hong Kong (Chinese) .香港

Palestine (Arabic) فلسطين.

Qatar (Arabic) قطر.

Sri Lanka (Sinhalese and Tamil) .ලංකා .இலங்கை

Taiwan (Chinese – Simplified and Traditional) .台灣 .台湾

Thailand (Thai) .ไทย

Tunisia (Arabic) تونس.

See the full list of IDN ccTLD strings that have passed the string evaluation phase.

AusRegistry International on the road

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

By Jon Lawrence

Earlier this month, I attended three industry meetings on two continents, which made for a long but rewarding trip. I had the pleasure of meeting many new contacts from across the globe, presented a variety of information about our experiences in operating a TLD Registry at two of these meetings and participated in a very interesting and constructive ICANN Meeting.

The Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association (APTLD) meeting, held alongside the APRICOT and APNIC meetings in Kuala Lumpur was well attended and featured updates from a number of ccTLD Managers from across the region on topics such as the roll-out of IDN ccTLDs and DNSSEC.

I delivered a presentation, titled ‘Launching an IDN ccTLD’ which focused on the non-technical issues that need to be considered to ensure a smooth launch of an IDN ccTLD.

Next stop was Nairobi, for the African Top Level Domain Association (AfTLD) Meeting.  This was our first opportunity to attend an AfTLD meeting, and it was a pleasure to meet many of the ccTLD Managers from across Africa.  I was again given the opportunity to deliver a presentation, titled ‘Building a successful ccTLD’, which provided an overview of a wide range of factors that combine to make a ccTLD successful.

The ICANN Meeting, at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, in downtown Nairobi, turned out to be one of the more intriguing and successful ICANN meetings in some time.  Numbers were certainly down as many people were put off by the security situation in Nairobi, but this resulted in a large increase in the number of remote participants.  ICANN had taken steps to enhance their remote participation facilities, in anticipation of the larger numbers, and it worked very well by all reports.  The local organisers, KENIC and the Communications Commission of Kenya, along with ICANN’s meeting team did a great job of keeping everything running smoothly on the ground, despite Nairobi’s security and traffic challenges, and especially as they found out at the last minute that they would have to share the venue with a regional Heads of State meeting being held to discuss the peace process in Southern Sudan.

Everything went off without any major hitches though and the Gala Night, held at the famous Carnivore restaurant, was also a great success.

At the end of the week, the Board voted down the Expression of Interest proposal for the new gTLD program.

Despite this decision, there was much to be positive about as a number of the overarching issues appear to be close to resolved, including Trademark protection and scaling of the Root.  See our blog on the outcomes of this here. ICANN staff have also indicated that the next draft of the Applicant Guidebook (version 4, due out before the next meeting in Brussels, in June), will be ‘nearly final’ which is great news for future gTLD applicants.

On the IDN front, the Board also confirmed that two character IDN gTLDs are likely to be permitted, at least in non-Latin character sets, which will come as a relief to many Asian gTLD applicants.  The Board also passed two resolutions that indicate that finding a solution to the issue of IDN variants is a major priority.  This is particularly relevant to the Chinese script as there are both Simplified and Traditional variants of many Chinese characters, and potentially affects both gTLDs and ccTLDs using Chinese script.