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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
    (June 1999 - March 2001)

    Multi-lingual Domain Names IDN working group report
    posted by jon on Wednesday August 29 2001, @07:10AM

    The ICANN Board committee on internationalized domain names (Katoh, Auerbach, Campos, Cerf) has issued its report, warning: "If not handled properly, IDNs can pose a serious threat to the stability of the Internet. If a functioning IDN system is not deployed rapidly enough, there is a real possibility of the Internet fracturing along character set and national lines. In the absence of central coordination, the likelihood of name collision, and resulting consumer confusion, could increase significantly." The report urges that "ICANN should do everything in its power to facilitate the adoption of an IDN standard by the IETF." In addition, it recommends that ICANN charter a committee, including representatives from the GAC, to generate policy recommendations on "prevention of cybersquatting and resolution of trademark disputes in IDN environments," "application of principles of competition, market access, consumer protection, and intellectual property protection," and "interoperability of the present and future Internet, including the use of testbeds."

    The report continues:

    "ICANN will have to determine its general approach to top level IDNs. Top-level IDNs are both culturally significant and commercially valuable, and the IDN community is eagerly awaiting their deployment. Even if the IETF agrees on a standard, ICANN's mishandling of the top level IDN issue could encourage the development of alternate roots, which would threaten the stability of the Internet.

    "There are at least two alternatives for top level IDNs. First, ICANN can decide to allocate to each ccTLD a single top level IDN, which identifies that ccTLD. For example, ICANN can allocate to JPNIC .[JP in Japanese script]. JPNIC then would be free to register second level domains in Japanese script as follows -- [Japanese script].[JP in Japanese script]. In this manner, the universe of IDN top-leve domains would in essence be limited to a translation of the ccTLD identifiers.

    "Second, ICANN could select global top-level IDNs. Presumably ICANN would perform this selection in consultation with the relevant ccTLD managers and regional organizations.

    "Not surprisingly, each approach has strengths and weaknesses. The great virtue of the first approach is its simplicity. ICANN would have to work out with the ccTLD what its identifier would be in its local script -- e.g., JP in Japanese script -- and that would be the end of ICANN's involvement. The downside of this approach is that all the global TLDs would remain in ASCII; there would be no .[com or biz in Japanese script]. This could lead to pressure for alternate roots supporting such top level IDNs. Additionally, this approach could lead to questions whether the Internet was truly globalized and really represented the global community of Internet stakeholders.

    "The second approach would address these concerns, but would be extremely difficult for ICANN to administer. Last November, ICANN has approved seven new gTLDs. Could ICANN administer multiple gTLDs for each script? This could amount to literally thousands of gTLDs. Moreover, the process of selecting IDNgTLDs and their registries could be extremely volatile for the more desirable top leve domains. The country code registries might feel that they deserved a right of first refusal for these domains."

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