Internationalized domain names (IDNs) which are Internet domain names containing at least one label that is displayed in software applications, in whole or in part, in a language-specific script or alphabet, such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Tamil or the Latin alphabet-based characters with diacritics, such as French. They are stored in the Domain Name System as ASCII strings using Punycode transcription.
Within ICANN until recently, the Root Zone was limited to a set of characters conforming to US-ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) or “Latin” alphabets. This changed with the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which introduced top-level domains (TLDs) in different scripts and enabled Internet users to access domain names in their own language.
Specifically according to ICANN, the approval of the IDN country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) Fast Track Process by the ICANN Board at its annual meeting in Seoul, South Korea in October 2009, enabled countries and territories to submit requests to ICANN for IDN ccTLDs representing their respective country or territory names in scripts other than US-ASCII characters. The new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program, approved at the ICANN meeting in Singapore in June 2011, will allow for the first time the addition of IDN gTLDs into the root zone.
IDNs have come a long way and speaking to some of the people who have were part of the process Ms. Sophia Bekele, first African on the GNSO policy council for ICANN and the now founder of DCA Registry Services, Kenya says “the IDN’s are a very important portion of the DNS system and gives a niche portion of the users an amazing opportunity to utilize the Internet resource”. Ms Bekele is lauded as one of the individuals who played an integral role
Dr. Tin Wee Tan Associate Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore and an Internet Hall of Fame inductee says
‘Sophia was championing IDNs which I had previously implemented in March 1998 after she was made aware by the IDN group that I was involved in, the Multilingual Internet Names
Consortium where I was a co-founder, that there was no formal policy structure at ICANN for promoting IDNs. Sophia pushed very hard for a policy dialog through the GNSO Board and finally through the ICANN Board, where we now have IDN policy formally”
The IDNs have also been given priority during evaluation and delegation. This is an opportunity not only to ensure that IDNS are available for use by the respective subscribers thereby expanding the namespace.
During a recent visit by the ICANN CEO to China, he said
“I am certain that the Chinese applicants will be very ready to move as fast as possible and hopefully they are the first to be out,” He continued that “I’ve also been announcing that ICANN is going to be shifting a lot of its U.S. centric operations to operations that are distributed around the world, including Asia. So we will be moving part of our core operational functions from Los Angeles to Asia soon, some will be in China, some will be in Singapore and other places,”
China Currently ranks 3rd in the number of registered domains after the USA and Germany with a total of 6,220,233 registered domains according to webhosting.info . Russia ranks 18th with 489,992 while Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are estimated to have a total of 49594 domains.
Some of these developments not only affect the middle East and the Asian countries but its also expected to help the African continent which also has Arabic speakers and also is home to a vibrant diverse language population that will definitely need African IDNs once the new gTLD process has been implemented as a first phase