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IDN ccTLD Fast Track developments

Jon Lawrence

The IDN ccTLD Fast Track program is moving along rapidly, with ICANN's announcement that both the Simplified and Traditional Chinese script versions of .china have passed the string evaluation phase of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program. Alongside this, ICANN have also announced the release of a proposed implementation plan for 'Synchronised IDN ccTLDs' that will create the rules by which these variant IDN ccTLDs will coexist.

A further seven IDN ccTLDs have also just passed the string evaluation phase, bringing to 15 the number of strings that have reached this stage, representing 12 countries and involving seven different scripts.

The Synchronised IDN ccTLD Implementation Plan is a big step forward for the IDN program and is the result of a very fast turnaround and some great work by the Equivalent Strings Working Group (ES-WG) set up by the ICANN Board just two weeks ago in Nairobi.

By 'synchronised IDN ccTLDs', ICANN means having two variants of a ccTLD delegated — for example, both the Simplified (.中国) and Traditional (.中國) Chinese script versions of .china will be added to the root and will function interchangeably, so that a user will be able to enter either version and be routed to the same website or service.

The principles drafted by the Working Group state that there must be 'convergence at every level of the domain name' and that there must be 'adequate and verifiable procedures' to ensure this occurs.

Chinese script variants have been available for some years at the second-level, in .cn and .hk, so there is considerable experience within the industry in managing this issue that will be valuable in informing the Working Group's work.

Though the main focus at this stage is on the Chinese scripts, this issue will impact on both ccTLDs and gTLDs in other scripts as well. Saudi Arabia, for example, have applied for three variants of their السعودية. (.alsaudiah) Arabic script IDN ccTLD.

The proposed implementation plan has been posted here and is open to public comment until 13th April, before the Board will consider the issue again at their meeting on 22nd April.

It is very encouraging to see the ICANN Board's urgent commitment to the resolution of this important issue that will help to ensure the successful implementation of IDN ccTLDs, something for which many of our clients and some of the other billions of people around the world who don't use Latin based scripts in their language have been waiting for a number of years.

AusRegistry International's Domain Name Registry Software includes fully-configurable support for IDN variants and is being used for the امارات. (.emarat) Arabic script IDN ccTLD for the United Arab Emirates as well as the قطر. (.qatar) Arabic script IDN ccTLD for Qatar.

See ICANN's announcement about the Synchronised IDN Implementation Plan.

The other countries that have just passed the string evaluation phase are:

Hong Kong (Chinese) .香港

Palestine (Arabic) فلسطين.

Qatar (Arabic) قطر.

Sri Lanka (Sinhalese and Tamil) .ලංකා .இலங்கை

Taiwan (Chinese — Simplified and Traditional) .台灣 .台湾

Thailand (Thai) .ไทย

Tunisia (Arabic) تونس.

See the full list of IDN ccTLD strings that have passed the string evaluation phase.

By Jon Lawrence, Executive Officer, Electronic Frontiers Australia; Board member, ISOC-AU
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