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    Alternate Roots Alternate Realities: Playing the China Card
    posted by Mueller on Wednesday March 01 2006, @06:02AM

    China has caused the Internet governance world to flutter by announcing in the English online version of Peoples Daily that it has created three new Chinese-character TLDs: Zhong Guo (China), Gong Si (Company), and Wang Luo (Net).

    Many people see this as a new development, but the three TLDs have been in existence for about two years. Until now, however, the official Chinese line was that the names were "experimental," even though tens of thousands of names were being sold under them. My take is that they have "come out of the closet" in their use of new IDN TLDs. And the coming out throws out an explicit challenge to ICANN, telling the world that "Internet users" [in China] will not longer have to use the ICANN root.

    This is being widely described as an "alternate root." Technically, this is true: it functions the same way as an alternate root. But in reality it is something more interesting (and dangerous?): it is a national root, a way of keeping the Internet bounded to a political jurisdiction so that it can be regulated more easily. China is not attempting to replace ICANN's root globally. It is not interested in adding TLDs for markets and users outside of China. It is interested in locking Chinese-speaking users within China into a DNS root under its own control.



    And keep in mind that the USG announced its willingness to recognize and respect "national sovereignty" over ccTLDs. Note that these new TLDs are being described by the press as "3 additional country codes." Certainly Zhong Guo (China) could be considerd such, but COM and NET seems rather, uh, generic to me.

    There is one important sense in which the ICANN world will have to adjust. At the recent GNSO new TLD meeting in Washington, DC, the registry constituency made it clear that in the introduction of IDNs they wanted very badly to extend their exclusive ascii assignments across all scripts, using DNAME. E.g., since VeriSign has .com in ascii, it should have the equivalent in every other language. The Chinese announcement pretty much blows that concept out of the water, since "gongsi" is the Chinese equivalent of COM. There is some speculation -- and it is only that, at this point -- that China's decision to make their use of IDNs official may have had something to do with discussions of that possibility in Vancouver. CNNIC managers were present at the Vancouver ICANN meeting.

     
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      Related Links  
    · VeriSign/NSI
    · ICANN
    · English online version of Peoples Daily
    · More Alternate Roots stories
    · Also by Mueller
     
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