Internationalised domain names could launch by early 2009, following the formulation of policies to better manage ambiguities, according to an industry expert.
Edmon Chung, chief executive of DotAsia, told ZDNet Asia on Wednesday that he is involved in a number of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) working groups that are striving to introduce 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 eCommerce Asia Summit 2008 in Singapore.
Chung, also the vice chair for the Internet Society in Hong Kong, pointed out, however, that the launch of internationalised domain names (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 co-operation too, he added.
For instance, a letter from the Latin alphabet in the upper case and 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."
Technical policies, Chung pointed out, are necessary to prevent websites 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," Chung said.
"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.