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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

VeriSign Inc is on the verge of launching the next phase in the prolonged roll-out of so-called "internationalized domain names", addresses written in languages, such as Chinese, than use non-ASCII characters.

In about eleven days, the company will start marketing a free plug-in for Internet Explorer and Outlook that converts IDNs into ASCII, so users will be able to address web sites and email in their native languages. VeriSign will open a multilingual site, IDNNow.com, to push the software.

The move follows the demise of RealNames Corp, which had been providing IDN resolution via its keyword system, native to IE, but which went bust last month. But Alexa Raad, product manager for IDNs at VeriSign, said the company was working on its plug-in system months before RealNames's troubles occurred.

"The plug-in release is not in response to RealNames going out of business," she said. "We've been working on this for a long time. RealNames was a bridge technology, as it had 'mass appeal'."

While the plug-in will allow IDNs to be used the domains themselves have not been added to the domain name system at the second level. When a user types an IDN into their browser, the plug in will convert the characters to ASCII using a method called RACE (row-based ASCII-compatible encoding), add .mltbd.net, and go to the resulting address, a third-level VeriSign-hosted domain that redirects to the registrant's site.

Raad said VeriSign decided not to add the IDNs themselves to the .com zone file after pressure from ICANN, the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers, which has responsibilities for managing aspects of the DNS. ICANN did not want IDNs deployed on the public internet until a standard encoding system has been finalized by the Internet Engineering Task Force. VeriSign's RACE encoding is an older system.

VeriSign started selling IDNs in late 2000, and so far registrants have had a rough ride getting their domains to resolve. Recognizing some displeasure from customers, the company will offer its partner registrars an extra four months free on every registration, which they can choose to pass on to their customers if they wish.

© ComputerWire.

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