Icann gives nod to Chinese characters, .xxx

Summary:Chinese-language top-level domains have been given the green light by domain name administrator, which has also moved forward the application for .xxx

Chinese internet users will soon be able to browse for domain names written in Chinese characters, Icann has announced.

The organisation, which oversees the internet domain name system, approved internationalised domain names (IDNs) for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan on Friday.

"This approval is a significant change for Chinese language users worldwide," said Icann chief executive Rod Beckstrom in a statement. "One-fifth of the world speaks Chinese and that means we just increased the potential online accessibility for roughly a billion people."

The use of IDNs has been a matter of discussion at Icann since the organisation was set up in 1998. In October 2009, just after severing its ties with the US government, Icann voted to set up a fast-track process for introducing IDNs. It began taking applications from countries in November, and in May, the first non-Latin top-level domains were given the green light, in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The organisations that are now able to set up Chinese-character domains are the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation (HKIRC) and the Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC).

Implementing Chinese-character IDNs will not present many technical challenges, according to Ken Silva, chief technology officer for VeriSign, which is one of the companies that administer the root servers of the internet. However, it may cause difficulties around intellectual property enforcement, because brand owners will have to keep on top of more domains as the range of language options has increased, he said.

In addition, Silva said the technology underlying domain name resolution, DNS, will not be affected by the implementation of non-Latin characters.

"From a technical standpoint, [non-Latin IDNs] are just based on DNS," said Ken Silva, chief technology officer for VeriSign. "Any challenges are going to be social: around intellectual property protection and branding [for example]."

Another long-running issue, the introduction of .xxx as a top-level domain for the adult entertainment industry, also took a step forward on Friday. Icann said that its board had voted to speed up its process for checking out the application of ICM Registry to sell registrations for the domain. It also said it has begun negotiations on a draft agreement with the registrar, which has been pushing for years to have its application approved. ICM Registry, which originated the idea of the domain, had its application rejected by Icann in May 2006.

The Icann board has now approved a set of steps for ICM Registry's application and is consulting with the its own Governmental Advisory Committee on the matter. The domain proposal has attracted criticism from groups that fear it will legitimise pornographic content on the internet.

Topics: Networking

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Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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