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The move towards a fully Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) system took a step forward today. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has announced the first four countries that have completed a key milestone in the IDN process -- an effort to expand domain names to support non-Latin alphabets.
Arabic and Cyrillic are likely to be the first two character sets used through the initiative, with Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates now set to be the first countries with IDNs.
All four have passed the language character (or string) evaluation as part of the IDN process that ICANN startedat the end of 2009. String evaluation is an important step in the process for a number of reasons.
"First of all, this is the first time we are about to insert IDN TLDs in the DNS root zone, [making the] first internationalized extensions to be available for registration," Tina Dam, ICANN's senior director of IDNs, told InternetNews.com. "As such, we need to make sure that certain technical criteria is followed so that we do not run into technical problems down the road. Another piece of the string evaluation is to make sure that the strings are not confusingly similar to existing TLDs/extensions. That would cause user confusion, which needs to be avoided."
Dam added that the remaining steps in the string evaluation phase ensures that the relevant government, and the country/territory community, is supportive of the string -- that it represents a meaningful representation of the country name and that the string is expressed in an official language of the country/territory.
Since the process opened in November, ICANN has received 16 applications, spread across six different languages.
Dam noted that Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the first four to submit their requests and have them successfully evaluated. The other applications are still under evaluation.
|Tina Dam, ICANN's senior director of IDNs (Source: ICANN)|
There are still several steps left for the four countries to complete before their Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) are available in their own languages.
"The next step is that the countries/territories can submit their request for String Delegation," Dam said. "Part of this is a ICANN Board consideration, and following a successful approval from the ICANN Board, the strings will go live. It is not possible to say whether they will go live at the same time, as this will depend on how complete the String Delegation application is."