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ICANN speeds IDN ccTLDs

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The likes of China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are on the fast track to net domains that use their very own alphabets.

This week, at the Internet Governance Forum in Rio de Janeiro, ICANN announced that it's cranking an effort to provide certain very important nations with "country code top-level domains" that use "internationalized domain names." In ICANN speak, these are known as IDN ccTLDs. But you can think of them as web addresses that uses non-Latin characters.

"There are certain countries that clearly need to have an IDN representation of their territory as soon as possible," Chris Disspain, the country code manager for Australia and the chair of ICANN's Country Code Names Supporting Organization, told us, as he was jetting out of Brazil. "So we've working on a fast track approach that will give those countries IDN ccTLDs sooner rather than later."

Those countries include China, Taiwan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, The United Arab Emirates, and various other Arab nations. Disspain and ICANN have been testing IDNs for the past two weeks, and they hope to finalize a plan for these big-name countries within the next six months.

How difficult can this testing be? Pretty darn difficult. Disspain doesn't want Russia confused with Paraguay. The current Latin-character country code for Russia is "ru." But the Cyrillic equivalent looks just like Paraguay's Latin-character code: "py." Meanwhile, China uses two different scripts: simplified and traditional. So ICANN must decided whether to settle on one IDN ccTLD for such countries or provide more than one.

"From a technical point of view, there's a huge amount of work required to make sure that this sort of confusion doesn't happen," Disspain said.

Sorting everything out for every country across the globe will take "two to three years." But ICANN realizes that the likes of China and Russia need their IDNs well before then. "Over the next six months, we'll to try figure out a way to provide those territories with an IDN ccTLD without interfering with overall policy development."

So China and Russia should have a plan by June. But then that plan must be implemented. And who knows how long that will take. ®

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