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“Just give up!” ICANN tells its most stubborn new gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, April 8, 2019, Domain Policy

ICANN has urged the company that wants to run .internet as new gTLD to just give up and go away.

The India-based company, Nameshop, actually applied for .idn — to stand for “internationalized domain name” — back in the 2012 application round.

It failed the Geographic Names Review portion of the application process because IDN is the International Standards Organization’s 3166-1 three-letter code for Indonesia, and those were all banned.

While one might question the logic of applying for a Latin-script string to represent IDNs, overlooking the ISO banned list was not an incredibly stupid move.

Even a company with Google’s brainpower resources overlooked this paragraph of the Applicant Guidebook and applied for three 3166-1 restricted strings: .and, .are and .est.

But rather than withdraw its .idn bid, like Google did with its failed applications, Nameshop decided to ask ICANN to change its applied-for string to .internet.

There was a small amount of precedent for this. ICANN had permitted a few applicants to correct typos in their applied-for strings, enabling DotConnectAfrica for example to correct its nutty application for “.dotafrica” to its intended “.africa”.

But swapping out .idn for .internet was obviously not a simple correction but rather looked a complete upgrade of its addressable market. Nobody else had applied for .internet, and Nameshop was well aware of this, so Nameshop’s bid would have been a shoo-in.

To allow the change would have opened the floodgates for every applicant that found itself in a tricky contention set to completely change their desired strings to something cheaper or more achievable.

But Nameshop principal Sivasubramanian Muthusamy did not take no for an answer. He’s been nagging ICANN to change its mind ever since.

There’s a lengthy, rather slick timeline of his lobbying efforts published on the Nameshop web site.

He filed a Request for Reconsideration back in 2013, which was swiftly rejected by the ICANN board of directors.

In July 2017, he wrote to ICANN to complain that Nameshop’s string change request should be treated the same as any other:

It seems that if ICANN can allow string changes from a relatively undesirable name to a more desireable name based on misspelling, then ICANN should allow a change from a desireable name in three characters(IDN) to longer name in eight characters (Internet) based on confusion with geographical names

Meetings with ICANN staff, the Ombudsman, the Governmental Advisory Committee and others to discuss his predicament several times over the last several years have proved fruitless.

Finally, today ICANN has published a letter (pdf) it sent to Muthusamy on Friday, urging him to ditch his Quixotic quest and get his money back. Christine Willett, VP of gTLD operations, wrote:

Given we are unable to take further action on Nameshop’s application, we encourage you to withdraw the application for a full refund of Nameshop’s application fee.

I doubt this is the first time ICANN has urged Nameshop to take its money and run, but it seems ICANN is now finally sick of talking about the issue.

Willett added that ICANN staff and directors “politely decline” his request for further in-person meetings to discuss the application, and encouraged him to apply for his desired string in the next application round, whenever that may be.

Data beats Merdinger to head universal acceptance group

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2019, Domain Policy

Email entrepreneur and internationalized domain name expert Ajay Data has been named as the new chair of the group that is struggling to promote the universal acceptance of top-level domains across the internet.

Data, who replaces Afilias COO Ram Mohan after a four-year term, beat GoDaddy’s VP of domains Rich Merdinger in a secret ballot of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group this week.

The number of votes each candidate received were not disclosed.

India-based Data is founder and CEO of Xgenplus, a developer of enterprise email servers with a focus on support for non-Latin scripts and internationalized domain names.

He’s been intimately involved in all things IDN for many years.

The UASG is an independent group, which receives funding from ICANN, dedicated to reaching out to software and web site developers to ensure their systems can support domain names in all scripts, including IDNs, as well as raise awareness of new gTLDs.

Neustar completes .in migration

The transfer of India’s suite of ccTLDs from Afilias to Neustar is done.

NIXI, the .in registry, announced today: “The transition of .IN to its new Neustar-backed Registry platform is now complete.”

With 2.2 million names, not counting names in NIXI’s plethora of localized transliterations, .in is the third-largest TLD migration, behind the 3.1 million .au names that made the reverse journey from Neustar to Afilias last year and the 2.7 million .org names that went from Verisign to Afilias in 2003.

The .in migration started yesterday. NIXI had expected up to 48 hours downtime at the registry EPP level, with obviously no DNS downtime.

The name servers for .in and its IDN equivalents currently all simultaneously include Afilias-owned and Neustar-owned servers.

An Afilias lawsuit against the Indian government, which claimed Neustar lacked experience with Indian scripts and attempted to block the transition, appears to have been dropped last week.

Neustar is reportedly charging NIXI $0.70 per transaction, $0.40 less than Afilias had bid to renew its contract. It won the contract after an open bidding process last August.

Right of the colon? IDN getting killed over dot confusion

Kevin Murphy, February 11, 2019, Domain Registries

An internationalized domain name ccTLD is reportedly getting buried because of a confusion about how many dots should appear.

Armenia’s .հայ (.xn--y9a3aq) today has fewer than 300 registered domains, well under 1% of the volume enjoyed by the Latin-script .am, apparently due to a unique quirk of the Armenian language.

According to a report in the local tech press, sourcing a registry VP, .հայ domains are not working because of how the Armenian script uses punctuation.

In Armenian, a full-stop or period is represented by two vertically aligned dots called a verjaket that looks pretty much identical to a colon in English and other Latin-based languages.

A single dot, looking and positioned exactly like a Latin period, is called a mijaket and is used in the same way English and other languages use a colon.

It’s not entirely clear whether the problem lies with the user, the keyboards, the browsers, or elsewhere, but it’s plain to see how confusion could arise when you have Armenian-script characters on both sides of a Latin-script dot.

The registry, ISOC Armenia, is today reporting just 298 .հայ domains, compared to 34,354 .am domains.

The Latin-script ccTLD has benefited in the past from its association elsewhere with AM radio. It’s also sometimes used as a domain hack, including by Instagram’s URL shortener.

It’s probably worth noting that while Armenia seems to have a unique problem, it’s far from unusual for an IDN ccTLD to perform poorly against its Latin stablemate.

.հայ, which transliterates to “.hay”, is an abbreviation of the Armenian name for Armenia, Հայաստան or “Hayastan”. It was delegated by ICANN in 2015 as part of its IDN ccTLD fast-track program.

Armenian has fewer than seven million speakers worldwide. Armenia has roughly three million inhabitants.

ICANN approves two new TLDs, including THAT one

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2019, Domain Registries

ICANN’s board of directors has given the nod to two more country-code TLDs.

The eight-year-old nation of South Sudan is finally getting its possibly controversial .ss, while Mauritania is getting the Arabic-script version of its name, موريتانيا. (.xn--mgbah1a3hjkrd), to complement its existing .mr ccTLD.

Both TLDs were approved by ICANN after going through the usual, secretive IANA process, at its board meeting at the weekend.

The recipient of موريتانيا. is the Université de Nouakchott Al Aasriya, while .ss is going to National Communication Authority, a governmental agency.

As previously noted, .ss has the potential to be controversial due to its Nazi associations, and the fact that Nazis are precisely the kind of people who have trouble finding TLDs that will allow them to register names.

But none of that is ICANN’s business. It simply checks to make sure the requester has the support of the local internet community and that the string is on the ISO 3166 list.

The Mauritanian IDN has already been added to the DNS root, while .ss has not.

Afilias sues India to block $12 million Neustar back-end deal

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2018, Domain Registries

Afilias has sued the Indian government to prevent it awarding the .in ccTLD back-end registry contract to fierce rival Neustar.

The news emerged in local reports over the weekend and appears to be corroborated by published court documents.

According to Moneycontrol, the National Internet Exchange of India plans to award the technical service provider contract to Neustar, after over a decade under Afilias, but Afilias wants the deal blocked.

The contract would also include some 15 current internationalized domain name ccTLDs, with another seven on the way, in addition to .in.

That’s something Afilias reckons Neustar is not technically capable of, according to reports.

Afilias’ lawsuit reportedly alleges that Neustar “has no experience or technical capability to manage and support IDNs in Indian languages and scripts and neither does it claim to have prior experience in Indian languages”.

Neustar runs plenty of IDN TLDs for its dot-brand customers, but none of them appear to be in Indian scripts.

NIXI’s February request for proposals (pdf) contains the requirement: “Support of IDN TLDs in all twenty two scheduled Indian languages and Indian scripts”.

I suppose it’s debatable what this means. Actual, hands-on, operational experience running Indian-script TLDs at scale would be a hell of a requirement to put in an RFP, essentially locking Afilias into the contract for years to come.

Only Verisign and Public Interest Registry currently run delegated gTLDs that use officially recognized Indian scripts, according to my database. And those TLDs — such as Verisign’s .कॉम (the Devanagari .com) — are basically unused.

Neither Neustar nor Afilias have responded to DI’s requests for comment today.

.in has over 2.2 million domains under management, according to NIXI.

Neustar’s Indian subsidiary undercut its rival with a $0.70 per-domain-year offer, $0.40 cheaper than Afilias’ $1.10, according to Moneycontrol.

That would make the deal worth north of $12 million over five years for Afilias and over $7.7 million for Neustar.

One can’t help but be reminded of the two companies’ battle over Australia’s .au, which Afilias sneaked out from under long-time incumbent Neustar late last year.

That handover, the largest in DNS history, was completed relatively smoothly a couple months ago.

All Cyrillic .eu domains to be deleted

Eurid has announced that Cyrillic domain names in .eu will be deleted a year from now.

The registry said that it’s doing so to comply with the “no script mixing” recommendations for internationalized domain names, which are designed to limit the risk of homograph phishing attacks.

The deletions will kick in May 31, 2019, and only apply to names that have Cyrillic before the dot and Latin .eu after.

Cyrillic names in Eurid’s Cyrillic ccTLD .ею will not be affected.

The plan has been in place since Eurid adopted the IDNA2008 standard three years ago, but evidently not all registrants have dropped their affected names yet.

Bulgaria is the only EU member state to use Cyrillic in its national language.

Emojis coming to another ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, January 24, 2018, Domain Registries

dotFM is to make emoji domain names available in the .fm ccTLD it manages.

The company said today that it’s currently taking expressions of interest in ‘premium’ emoji inventory, and that such domains will be registerable at an unspecified point in future.

It’s published a list of single-emoji domains it plans to sell.

Emoji domains “will be available based on Unicode Consortium Emoji Version 5.0 standards using single code point; and allowing a mix of letters and emoji characters under the top-level .FM, as well as the dotRadio extensions, .RADIO.fm and .RADIO.am”, dotFM said.

Very few TLDs allow emojis to be registered today.

The most prominent is .ws, which is Western Samoa’s ccTLD, marketed as an abbreviation for “web site”.

.fm is the ccTLD for Micronesia, but dotFM markets it to radio stations.

As ccTLDs, they’re not subject to ICANN rules that essentially ban them contractually in gTLDs.

Emojis use the same encoding as internationalized domain names, but do not feature in the IDN standards because they’re not used in real spoken languages.

Emoji domains are usually considered not entirely practical due to the inconsistent ways they can be rendered by applications.

New gTLDs still a crappy choice for email — study

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2017, Domain Tech

New gTLDs may not be the best choice of domain for a primary email address, judging by new research.

Over 20% of the most-popular web sites do not fully understand email addresses containing long TLDs, and Arabic email addresses are supported by fewer than one in 10 sites, a study by the Universal Acceptance Steering Group has found.

Twitter, IBM and the Financial Times are among those sites highlighted as having only partial support for today’s wide variety of possible email addresses.

Only 7% of the sites tested were able to support all types of email address.

The study, carried out by Donuts and ICANN staff, looked at 749 websites (in the top 1,000 or so as ranked by Alexa) that have forms for filling in email addresses.

On each site, seven different email addresses were input, to see whether the site would accept them as valid.

The emails used different combinations of ASCII and Unicode before the dot and mixes of internationalized domain name and ASCII at the second and top levels.

These were the results (click to enlarge or download the PDF of the report here):

IDN emails

The problem with these numbers, it seems to me, is the lack of a control. There’s no real baseline to judge the numbers against.

There’s no mention in the paper about testing addresses that use .com or decades-old ccTLDs, which would have highlighted web sites that with broken scripts that reject all emails.

But if we assume, as the paper appears to, that all the tested web sites were 100% compliant for .com domains, the scores for new gTLDs are not great.

There are currently over 800 TLDs over four characters in length, but according to the UASG research 22% of web sites will not recognize them.

There are 150 IDN TLDs, but a maximum of 30% of sites will accept them in email addresses.

When it comes to right-to-left scripts, such as Arabic, the vast majority of sites are totally hopeless.

UASG dug into the code of the tested sites when it could and found that most of them use client-side code — JavaScript processing a regular expression — to verify addresses.

A regular expression is complex bit of code that can look something like this: /^.+@(?:[^.]+\.)+(?:[^.]{2,})$

It’s not every coder’s cup of tea, but it can get the job done with minimal client-side resource overheads. Most coders, the UASG concludes, copy regex they found on a forum and maybe tweak it a bit.

This should not be shocking news to anyone. I’ve known about it since 2009 or earlier when I first started ripping code from StackOverflow.

However, the UASG seems to be have been working on the assumption that more sites are using off-the-shelf software libraries, which would have allowed the problem to be fixed in a more centralized fashion.

It concludes in its paper that much greater “awareness raising” needs to happen before universal acceptance comes closer to reality.

Five million Indian government workers to get IDN email

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2017, Domain Registries

The Indian government has announced plans to issue fully Hindi-script email addresses to some five million civil servants.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced the move, which will see each government employee given an @सरकार.भारत email address, in a statement this week.

सरकार.भारत transliterates as “sarkar.bharat”, or “government.india”.

The first stage of the roll-out will see the five million employees given @gov.in addresses, which apparently most of them do not already have.

Expanding the use of local scripts seems to be a secondary motivator to the government’s desire to bring control of government employee email back within its borders in a centralized fashion.

“The primary trigger behind the policy was Government data which resides on servers outside India and on servers beyond the control of the Government of India,” the MEITY press release states.

India currently has the largest number of internationalized domain names, at the top level, of any country.

NIXI, the local ccTLD manager, is in control of no fewer than 16 different ccTLDs in various scripts, with ample room for possible expansion in future.

The registry has been offering free IDN domains alongside .in registrations for about a year, according to local reports.

There are about two million .in domains registered today, according to the NIXI web site.