International domains to debut next year?

Summary:Policies are currently being worked out to address issues such as language, says an expert familiar with internationalized domain name development.

SINGAPORE--Internationalized domain names (IDNs) could launch by early 2009, following the formulation of policies to better manage ambiguities, according to an industry expert.

Edmon Chung, CEO of DotAsia, told ZDNet Asia Wednesday that he is involved in a number of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) working groups that are working to debut IDNs and it is "possible" that this could take place "early next year".

"1999 was the year [in which] IDNs were first discussed; hopefully in 2009 we will see it happen," Chung said in an interview on the sidelines of E-Commerce Asia Summit 2008 in the island-state.

Chung, also the vice chair for the Internet Society in Hong Kong, pointed out however, that the launch of IDNs does not just revolve around technical issues, "it's also a lot to do with policies or even politics". It requires a great deal of international cooperation too, he added.

For instance, a letter in the upper case and one in the lower case is considered to be the same, but simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese characters may not be considered the same. A policy decision has to be taken to require that simplified and traditional Chinese characters be mapped together so that when businesses register a domain, they are not made to register multiple versions.

"[That's just] one very obvious issue," said Chung "There are many of these issues in different languages to deal with as well and that's why it's taking so long."

Techno-policies, Chung pointed out, are necessary to prevent Web sites from being spoofed and used for phishing purposes.

"If it's just free flow--every character in the world can be used--it would create these problems [such as spoofing] but these are the kinds of things that registries like ourselves and other registries around the world address in terms of techno-policy arrangements.

"When you register a name, we not only check that machine-wise, it's unique and you can register it but also in terms of context, language, characters, variance issues--all these are being addressed by techno-policies," he noted.

IDNs suit Asia's diverse culture
The arrival of the IDNs would complement the efforts of the ".asia" initiative, said Chung. The Hong Kong-based DotAsia is the registry operator contracted by the ICANN for ".asia" domains.

Chung added that DotAsia intends to provide multilingual domain names, including Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean and Thai. For example, the "asia" in ".asia" would not be the English term but the Chinese equivalent, in Chinese characters.

The ".asia" domain, first introduced in October 2007, received half a million applications during the second phase from Feb. 20 to Mar. 12, of which about 45,000 had more than one applicant. The current first-come-first-served phase is enjoying good response from China and Indian applicants, said Chung.

Topics: CXO, Browser

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