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Three more countries get IDNs

Kevin Murphy, April 24, 2011, Domain Registries

Citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Serbia will soon be able to use domain names in their local Arabic and Cyrillic-based languages, after ICANN approved internationalized domain names for the three nations.

The three new ccTLDs are الجزائر (meaning “Al Jazair” for Algeria), المغرب (“al-Maghrib”, for Morocco) and .срб (“srb” for Serbia).

ICANN’s board approved the requests at a meeting on Thursday. They could enter the domain name system’s root in as little as 10 days, though delegations usually take longer.

There are now 37 IDN ccTLDs in IANA’s database of top-level domains, covering 27 countries.

On Thursday, ICANN also approved the redelegation of North Korea’s ASCII ccTLD, .kp, to an entity called Star Joint Venture Company.

North Korean domain to change hands

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2011, Domain Registries

ICANN is set to redelegate .kp, the country-code top-level domain for North Korea, when its board of directors meets next week.

It’s less than four years since .kp was first created. In September 2007, IANA delegated the ccTLD for the first time to the Korea Computer Center, a Pyongyang-backed governmental organization.

The technical side of the registry is currently handled by KCC Europe, a German company, but while some .kp domains still resolve, the official registry web site has been offline for months.

The redelegation is part of the ICANN board’s consent agenda. This means that, barring surprises, it will simply be rubber-stamped with no substantive discussion.

Because ccTLD redelegations are handled in private, we won’t know who the new registry manager is until after the handover happens and the IANA report is published.

In other ccTLD news, ICANN may also create three new internationalized domain name ccTLDs, for Serbia (.срб ), Algeria (الجزائر) and Morroco (المغرب).

Those delegations are part of the board’s regular agenda for its April 21 meeting, and will be discussed.

New Russian TLD hits 800,000 domains mark

Russia’s Cyrillic internationalized domain name, .РФ, received its 800,000th registration last night, according to the registry.

Coordination Center for TLD RU said this puts it 15th place in terms of European ccTLDs, pushing past the Czech Republic’s .cz in the rankings.

That’s pretty good going for an IDN TLD of interest primarily only to citizens of one country, a ccTLD which didn’t exist until early November 2010, less than five months ago.

It’s probably even larger than .co, which I believe has yet to reach the 700,000 domains mark.

The Russian Federation has almost 60 million internet users, 43% penetration, according to InternetWorldStats. That’s about 10 times more than the Czechs.

Greek IDN blocked due to non-existent domain

Greece’s request for .ελ, a version of .gr in its local script, was rejected by ICANN because it looked too much like .EA, a non-existent top-level domain, it has emerged.

Regular readers will be familiar with the story of how Bulgaria’s request for .бг was rejected due to its similar to Brazil’s .br, but to my knowledge the Greeks had not revealed their story until this week.

In a letter to the US government, George Papapavlou, a member of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, called the process of applying for an IDN ccTLD “long and traumatic”.

He said that Greece had to jump through “completely unnecessary” hoops to prove its chosen string was representative of the nation and supported by its internet community, before its application was finally rejected because it was “confusingly similar” to a Latin string.

“IANA has no right to question languages or local Internet community support. Governments are in the position of expressing their national Internet communities,” Papapavlou wrote.

The capital letters version of .ελ (ΕΛ) was considered to be confusingly similar to the Latin alphabet letters EA. The possibility of such confusion for a Greek language speaker, who uses exclusively Greek alphabet to type the whole domain name or address, to then switch into capital letters and type EA in Latin alphabet is close to zero. After all, there is currently no .ea or .EA ccTLD.

That’s true. There is no .ea. But that’s not to say one will not be created in future and, due to the way ccTLD strings are assigned, ICANN would not be able to prevent it on stability grounds.

Papapavlou called for “common sense” to be the guiding principle when deciding whether to approve an IDN ccTLD or not.

That is of course only one side of the story. Currently, ICANN/IANA does not comment on the details of ccTLD delegations, so it’s the only side we’re likely to see in the near future.

AusRegistry chalks up third Arabic domain win

AusRegistry International has announced it has been picked to provide the back-end registry for عمان., the Arabic-script internationalized domain name for Oman.

It’s the company’s third IDN ccTLD contract in the region, following on from Qatar’s forthcoming قطر. and the United Arab Emirates’ already-live امارات.

The company’s press release suggests to me that it’s a software/support deal, rather than a full-blown hosted back-end registry solution.

AusRegistry said it will “provide Domain Name Registry Software and supporting services for the establishment of a new Domain Name Registry System”.

It has previously announced back-end deals for ASCII ccTLDs including .qa and .ae, and manages Australia’s .au, which recently passed the two million domains milestone.

The deal with Oman, which AusRegistry said was competitively bid, also encompasses .om, the nation’s regular ccTLD.

While ICANN approved Oman’s chosen string under its IDN ccTLD Fast Track program back in October, it has not yet been delegated to the DNS root zone.

With the approval of Ukraine’s Cyrillic ccTLD last week, 25 territories have had their choice of local-script ccTLD given the nod under the program.

VeriSign’s upcoming battle for the Chinese .com

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2011, Domain Registries

Could VeriSign be about to face off against China for control of the Chinese version of .com? That’s an intriguing possibility that was raised during the .nxt conference last week.

Almost as an aside, auDA chief Chris Disspain mentioned during a session that he believes there are moves afoot in China to apply to ICANN for “company”, “network” and “organization” in Chinese characters. In other words, .com, .net and .org.

I’ve been unable to find an official announcement of any such Chinese application, but I’m reliably informed that Noises Have Been Made.

VeriSign has for several quarters been open about its plans to apply for IDN equivalents of its two flagship TLDs, and PIR’s new CEO Brian Cute recently told me he wants to do the same for .org.

While neither company has specified which scripts they’re looking at, Chinese is a no-brainer. As of this week, the nation is the world’s second-largest economy, and easily its most populous.

Since we’re already speculating, let’s speculate some more: who would win the Chinese .com under ICANN’s application rules, VeriSign or China?

If the two strings were close enough to wind up in a contention set, could VeriSign claim intellectual property rights, on the basis of its .com business? It seems like a stretch.

Could China leapfrog to the end of the process with a community application and a demand for a Community Priority Evaluation?

That also seems like a stretch. It’s not impossible – there’s arguably a “community” of companies registered with the Chinese government – but such a move would likely stink of gaming.

Is there a technical stability argument to be made? Is 公司. (which Google tells me means “company” in Chinese) confusingly similar to .com?

If these TLDs went to auction, one thing is certain: there are few potential applicants with deeper pockets than VeriSign, but China is one of them.

UPDATE: VeriSign’s Pat Kane was good enough to post a lengthy explanation of the company’s IDN strategy in the comments.

Eleven new ccTLDs coming next week

Kevin Murphy, January 19, 2011, Domain Registries

ICANN is set to approve 11 new internationalized domain name ccTLDs, representing four nations in Asia and the Middle East, at its board meeting next week.

On the January 25 consent agenda – which is typically rubber-stamped without discussion – is the approval of IDN ccTLDs for South Korea, India, Singapore and Syria.

Korea is due to get .한국, Singapore gets . 新加坡 (Chinese) and .சிங்கப்பூர் (Tamil), while Syria gets the Arabic string .سورية.

Massively polyglot India will be delegated its ccTLD in seven of its most-popular languages.

The delegations will push the number of TLDs in IANA’s database to over 300 for the first time.

This week, the ccTLD for Thailand went live with Thai-language registrations under .ไทย. You can watch a video of ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom congratulating the nation here.

Also on ICANN’s agenda next week is the re-delegation of the ASCII ccTLDs for Burkina Faso, Congo and Syria – .bf, .cd and .sy respectively – to new registry managers.

Cute sees .org’s future in new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2011, Domain Registries

The Public Interest Registry sees new top-level domains as an opportunity to strengthen the .org brand as well as add new TLDs to its stable, according to newly appointed CEO Brian Cute.

“We have the new round of gTLDs opening up soon, and I see that as genuinely an opportunity for PIR, so a lot of our strategic focus will be there,” Cute said in an interview.

Internationalized domain name TLDs will play a major role in this strategy. Cute said that “expanding .org into the IDN world” will be the key focus.

While PIR plans to apply to ICANN for several IDN variants of .org, there’s less interest in expanding into ASCII strings or outside of the company’s “public interest” mission.

“We not particularly looking at that opportunity,” Cute said.

He also believes that the large number of new TLDs ICANN is expected to authorize could actually strengthen .org as a brand.

“There will be lots of new entrants, lots of new competition,” he said. “The environment will be one where if we play our cards right, we’ll be able to be successful and in fact flourish.”

Cute was named CEO of PIR earlier today. Previously, he worked at Afilias, a close partner, so his learning curve at his new employer will be relatively gentle.

He said he doesn’t plan to shake things up much.

“I don’t see any need to make any major course corrections to our strategy,” he said. “It’s now a matter of execution. There will be new competition so we will have to execute well.”

ICANN rejects Bulgarian IDN info request

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2011, Domain Registries

A Bulgarian domain name association has had its request for information about ICANN’s rejection of the domain .бг itself rejected.

As I blogged last month, Uninet had filed a Documentary Information Disclosure Policy request with ICANN, asking it to publish its reasons for rejecting the Cyrillic ccTLD.

The organization wants to run .бг, which is broadly supported in Bulgaria, despite the fact that ICANN has found it would be confusingly similar to Brazil’s .br.

Uninet believes it needs more information about why the string was rejected, in advance of a planned appeal of its rejection under the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process.

But the group has now heard that its request “falls under multiple Defined Conditions of Nondisclosure set forth in the DIDP” because it covers internal communications and “trade secrets”, among other things.

ICANN’s response suggests instead that Uninet contact the Bulgarian government for the information.

I’m told that Uninet may now file a Reconsideration Request in order to get the data it needs, although I suspect that’s probably optimistic.

Ironically, neither Uninet’s request nor the ICANN response (pdf) have been published on its DIDP page.

Another top staffer quits ICANN

Kevin Murphy, January 2, 2011, Domain Policy

Tina Dam, senior director of internationalized domain names at ICANN, has quit.

The news appears to have been broken on Twitter by Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry, which does quite a bit of work with IDNs in the middle-east.

It’s my understanding that Dam may have actually resigned almost a month ago, during ICANN’s meeting in Cartagena.

Her move comes at an awkward time for ICANN, which is in the middle of revamping its IDN ccTLD Fast Track program, which Dam headed.

Dam has been with ICANN for many years, and is widely well-regarded by the community.

Overseeing the IDN program is a highly specialized and, one imagines, quite stressful position. Finding a qualified replacement will not be trivial.

Her name is added to the list of senior ICANN staffers to either quit or get fired over the last year, which currently numbers at least half a dozen.