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Who voted against three Arabic ccTLDs and why?

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

Two ICANN board members voted against the recent resolution to grant Arabic top-level domains to Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia, it has emerged.

ICANN has published the preliminary report for its August 5 board meeting, which breaks down the votes for each of the 27 resolutions and provides a minuscule amount of color about the discussions.

While the resolutions approving internationalized domain names for Singapore and Thailand were carried unanimously and without discussion, the three Arabic-script IDNs were discussed and received two negative votes and three abstentions.

So which two board members voted against these ccTLDs and why?

Beats me. The IDN ccTLD fast track process is one area where ICANN is quite secretive, and the report does not break down the substance of the discussion or the identities of the directors.

Strangely, two resolutions I would consider much more controversial faced less opposition.

The report shows that the resolution passing ICM Registry’s .xxx domain to the next stage of approval was carried unanimously, and that only one director voted against the .jobs amendment.

ERE.net has more on the .jobs story.

Top-level domain count likely to top 300 this year

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Perusing the big stack of marketing literature that I picked up at ICANN Brussels in June, I noticed that few companies agree about how many top-level domains currently exist.

Mildly surprising really, given that the official count isn’t especially difficult to come by. According to IANA’s database, there are 292 delegated TLDs today.

That number breaks down like this:

251 ASCII ccTLDs
9 IDN ccTLDs
4 gTLDs
3 “restricted” gTLDs
1 “infrastructure” TLD
13 “sponsored” gTLDs
11 test IDN TLDs

Interestingly, according to IANA, there are only four vanilla, open gTLDs – .com, .net, .org and .info.

I wonder how many sites NeuStar has shut down because .biz is “restricted” to business users? Or how many .mobi domains have been put on hold for breaking the “sponsored” guidelines.

The list does not yet count the six IDN ccTLDs that ICANN’s board approved August 5. So there are actually 298 approved top-level domains today.

In the IDN ccTLD pipeline as of Brussels were also Qatar, Singapore and Syria, which had met string approval but were not yet delegated, and about 15 others that had not.

There are two (or three) more voting meetings for ICANN’s board this year, and so it seems likely that the delegated TLD count will break through the 300 mark before 2011.

Palestine gets its own Arabic domain names

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has awarded five more non-ASCII top-level domains under its internationalized domain name fast-track process for country-code TLD managers.

Palestine, Tunisia and Jordan will all shortly receive delegations for Arabic-script versions of their existing ccTLDs. They join previous recipients including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Palestine gets فلسطين, Tunisia gets تونس and Jordan gets الاردن.

These apparently translate as “Falasteen”, “Tunis” and “al-Ordan”, respectively, and are presumably more useful to Arabic speakers than .ps, .tn and .jo.

Because they’re all Arabic, the dots appear to the right of the TLD, rather than the left.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory is, of course, a fringe case when it comes to ccTLDs.

But long ago, IANA made it a matter of policy that it would make no decision about which country or territory deserves its own ccTLD.

If it’s on the ISO 3166-1 list, which is overseen by the UN, it’s in. Palestine was added to that list in 1999, and was awarded .ps by ICANN/IANA in 2000.

The .ps registry is sponsored by the Palestinian National Authority’s telecoms ministry.

ICANN has also resolved to delegate Thailand the IDN ccTLD .ไทย and Sri Lanka both .ලංකා and .இலங்கை.

Interestingly, these two TLDs were approved as part of yesterday’s board meeting’s consent agenda.

The three Arabic names were approved separately, preceded by this:

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.13), the Board IANA Committee is directed, in coordination with ICANN’s CEO, to create improvements to the processes and new guidelines for implementation of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process.

VeriSign may settle CFIT lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign’s chief executive has not ruled out settling its potentially damaging lawsuit with the Coalition For ICANN Transparency out of court.

During the company’s second quarter earnings call earlier this week, Mark McLaughlin was asked whether there was a way the lawsuit could be made to go away, settling investor nerves.

His response: “It is an option that could be pursued.”

CFIT, backed by Momentous.ca, claims that VeriSign’s .com and .net no-bid contracts with ICANN, including the price increases they allow, are anti-competitive.

If VeriSign loses the case, it could face the loss of its .com and .net monopolies, which makes me think it will certainly seek to settle the case before that becomes a risk.

VeriSign currently has to decide whether to request a review at the Supreme Court, or go to the District Court for trial. It has until October 7 to make its call.

Also during Monday’s earnings call, McLaughlin addressed the growth opportunities VeriSign is looking at, following its renewed focus on the domain name business.

Asked whether the introduction of new TLDs would affect .com and .net growth, McLaughlin said:

I think it’s positive… just related to .com and .net, with the introduction of new TLDs there’s an expectation it just brings more people to the market and we generally do better when more people show up to the market. And the second thing, we intend to participate in some of those ourselves, so we see growth opportunities for us.

He also confirmed again that VeriSign will seek to launch non-ASCII internationalized versions of its existing TLD base, which includes .com, .net, tv and .name.

As Andrew Allemann noted yesterday, he also declared the pay-per-click-based speculative registration market essentially “dead”.

Chinese TLDs now live, broad adoption achieved in just seven days

Check it out: 教育部。中国.

That’s one, but by no means the only, of the first live, fully Chinese-script domain names. It’s China’s Ministry of Education.

Previously, it had been announced that the .中国 internationalized country-code TLD would not go live until August.

But on Friday CNNIC said that 90% of China’s ministries have got their .中國 domains already, along with 95% of news websites, 90% of universities and 40% of China’s Top 500 enterprises.

Not only was that level of adoption achieved very quietly, it was also achieved very quickly. According to IANA, .中國 was delegated just seven days earlier, on July 9.

IANA also reports that .中國, the IDN for Hong Kong went live on July 12. Taiwan’s .中國 was delegated on July 14.

All of these Chinese-script TLDs were approved by ICANN’s board at the conclusion of the Brussels meeting last month.

It’s perhaps not surprising that ICANN did not broadly announce the latest delegations. It got burnt for pre-empting Arab nations’ publicity when the first IDN TLDs went live in May.

I wonder whether this will help CNNIC reverse the trend of declining registrations in its namespace. According to the latest statistics, the .cn has halved in size over the last year.

Bulgaria to file ICANN reconsideration appeal over rejected IDN ccTLD

Bulgaria is to appeal ICANN’s rejection of .бг, the Cyrillic version of its existing country code top-level domain, .bg.

Technology minister Alexander Tsvetkov said that the Bulgarian government will file a reconsideration request with ICANN, according to a DarikNews.bg interview.

The requested IDN ccTLD .бг was rejected because it looks quite a bit like Brazil’s existing ASCII ccTLD, .br, which could create confusion for Brazilians.

ICANN/IANA does not talk openly about ccTLD delegation issues. As far as I know, .бг is the only IDN ccTLD on the current fast-track program to be rejected on string-similarity grounds.

The Darik News interview, via Google Translate, reports Tsvetkov saying he “believes that this domain is the best way for Bulgaria” and that the government “will ask for reconsideration”.

Asked about the clash with Brazil, he said Bulgaria “will not quit” in its pursuit of its first-choice ccTLD.

Brazil has not been silent on the issue.

During the meeting on Tuesday between the ICANN board and its Governmental Advisory Committee, Brazil’s representative praised ICANN for rejecting .бг:

Brazil would like to express its support to the recent board’s decision about avoiding graphic similitude between new country codes and current country codes in Latin. This is particularly important inasmuch as any graphic confusion might facilitate phishing practices and all the problems related to it.

Many thanks to the Bulgarian reader who referred me to this Darik News interview.

For any other Bulgarians reading this, the interview also appears to contain lots of other really juicy information not related to domain names. Check it out.

ICANN’s Sword algorithm fails Bulgarian IDN test

ICANN has released version 4 of its new TLD Draft Applicant Guidebook (more on that later) and it still contains references to the controversial “Sword” algorithm.

As I’ve previously reported, this algorithm is designed to compare two strings for visual similarity to help prevent potentially confusing new TLDs being added to the root.

The DAG v4 contains the new text:

The algorithm supports the common characters in Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, Japanese, Korean, and Latin scripts. It can also compare strings in different scripts to each other.

So I thought I’d check how highly the internationalized domain name .бг, the Cyrillic version of Bulgaria’s .bg ccTLD, scores.

As you may recall, .бг was rejected by ICANN two weeks ago due to its visual similarity to .br, Brazil’s ccTLD. As far as I know, it’s the only TLD to date that has been rejected on these grounds.

Plugging “бг” into Sword returns 24 strings that score over 30 out of 100 for similarity. Some, such as “bf” and “bt”, score over 70.

Brazil’s .br is not one of them.

Using the tool to compare “бг” directly to “br” returns a score of 26. That’s a lower score than strings such as “biz” and “org”.

I should note that the Sword web page is ambiguous about whether it is capable of comparing Cyrillic strings to Latin strings, but the new language in the DAG certainly suggests that it is.

ICANN says no to Bulgarian ccTLD

Bulgaria can not have a localized-script version of its country-code domain .bg, because it looks too much like Brazil’s current ccTLD.

Bulgarian business daily Dnevnik is reporting that ICANN has turned down Bulgaria’s request for .бг, the Cyrillic translation of .bg, because it looks very much like .br.

Part of ICANN’s internationalized domain name fast-track process checks whether applied-for strings could be visually confusing. Clearly, this is one of them.

Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have already passed the test and have active IDN ccTLDs.

The Bulgarians are not giving up, however. Dnevnik reports that the country will most likely apply for .бгр instead.

ICANN accused of Twitter faux pas over Arabic domains

The registry behind one of the new Arabic-script ccTLDs has sharply criticised ICANN for the way it introduced internationalized domain names to the root this week.

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry, accused ICANN, specifically those responsible for the IANA function, of “embarrassing incompetency” and cultural insensitivity.

Kinderis’ beef is that IANA added the three new Arabic IDNs to the root without giving their local managers so much as a headsup.

AusRegistry is the back-end provider for امارات. the United Arab Emirates’ new IDN ccTLD, as well as its ASCII original.

“I was alarmed to discover that the relevant ccTLD Managers were only notified many hours after the fact, long after the same IANA staff member had broadcast the news on a personal Twitter account,” he blogged.

While Kinderis was diplomatic enough not to name names, he’s talking about IANA registry manager Kim Davies, who broke the web-changing news on Wednesday with a tweet.

“This was an inappropriate manner in which to announce an event of this importance,” Kinderis wrote. “It displays a disturbing lack of understanding and a complete disregard of the cultural and political significance of this event within the Arabic world.”

He goes on to point out that the announcement was made during Saudi Arabia’s weekend, leaving ccTLD managers scrambling to get their marketing in place on their day off.

I could keep quoting. It’s a fairly extraordinary attack on aspects of ICANN’s culture. Go have a read.

The internet is polyglot as full IDNs go live

Click this: http://وزارة-الأتصالات.مصر/

It’s the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, owner of one of the world’s first fully non-ASCII internet domain names.

If you hover over the link, you might see the Punycode translation appear in your browser’s bottom bar, even though the href itself is in Arabic script.

Thanks to ICANN, from today the Latin script no longer has a stranglehold on the domain name system.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to tell you what the three newly created internationalized domain name ccTLDs are, because none of the software on my machine wants to let me use them in a sentence without switching my cursor to right-to-left editing mid-way through the word or changing the characters entirely, and after ten minutes of beating my head against the keyboard I gave up.

Anyway, the new domains represent Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

They were all recently approved by ICANN as part of its “fast-track” IDN ccTLD process, which promises to give countries the equivalent of their ASCII ccTLD in their native script.

After 25 years, the English language no longer has exclusive rights on the DNS. Not what I’d call a “fast” track, but we got there eventually.

ICANN has more here.