ICANN: wrangle over geographical top-level domains
There has been a lot of argument at the 33rd meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Cairo, which ends on Friday, about the rules for introducing new top-level domains. If certain governments have their way, ICANN will have to wait before introducing country or regional names as top-level domains (TLDs). They want the procedure for introducing new country domain names (ccTLDs, such as .uk) in non-Latin alphabets to be adopted first. This emerges from a report delivered by the Latvian diplomat Janis Karklins, chairman of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) at the meeting in Cairo.
Currently, there is a system called Punycode for encoding non-Roman characters in domain names. For example, the Latvian word "tūdaliņ" would be encoded as "xn--tdali-d8a8w", resulting in the Lavian-language domain www.tūdaliņ.lv. Allowing non-Latin domains as well would mean that people would not need to switch alphabets between the name of a site and its domain, as in www.मी.com.
Governments again pressed for the swift implementation of a procedure for the "fast-track registration" of non-English ccTLDs, adding that Asian and Arab countries, for example, should have more of a say, because the demand for such domain names is especially great there and, in addition, those ccTLDs that have practically completed the technical preparations for a non-English country domain (IDN ccTLD) should be registered preferentially. ICANN wants to respond with fast-track registration not least to the efforts to find alternative root solutions in countries such as China.
The adoption of an extensive standard procedure for IDN ccTLDs could take years. Going by what Karklins said, today's request by the Governmental Advisory Committee for a postponement for the time being of country and regional domain names in all languages probably refers to the standard procedure. This would considerably limit the introduction of some of the hotly disputed geographical TLDs. According to the representatives of dotBerlin, the many planned city TLDs, from .berlin and .hamburg to corresponding projects in New York, Barcelona and Portland, which have founded their own representative body in Cairo, are not affected.
Further privileges that the governments would gladly have for the new ccTLDs are a scrapping of the contracts that the operators of generic domains have to sign with ICANN, and a special regulation on fees, while anything that could delay the swift introduction of the new country domains should be considered very carefully.
But there is also some resistance to privileged access for country address registries. Why shouldn't national operators pay the same fees as other operators of new TLDs, asked Milton Mueller, a Professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. Potential competitors on the IDN-TLD market have on various occasions protested against letting national operators jump the queue. The only justification advanced, said Mueller, was some kind of magical invocation of 'sovereign rights'.
On the 33rd ICANN meeting, see also:
- ITU and ICANN – a loveless forced marriage
- Planned application procedure for new Top Level Domains criticised
- ICANN meeting: Egyptian host demands independence for network administration