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A Thought About Not-Quite-ASCII Top Level Domains

John Levine

ICANN has opened their new fast track process for "countries and territories that use languages based on scripts other than Latin" to get domain names that identify the country or territory in its own language. It's not clear to me what the policy is supposed to be for countries whose languages use extended Latin with accents and other marks that aren't in the ASCII set.

Any country that uses an extended Latin character set can use extended characters in 2LDs right now, and I can't offhand think of any whose current unaccented two-letter ccTLD isn't an adequate mnemonic for their name. But let's say that Serbia feels that .RS is kind of lame, so they apply for and get .Србија which is perfectly reasonable, since that's the Cyrillic character set.

Then Romania decides that .RO is too generic, so they ask for .România with the circumflex over the â, as it is properly spelled in Romanian. That's an IDN, so how can they say no?

Hey, say the Hungarians, they got their country names, we want .Magyar. Oh, no, that's ASCII, that will be $185,000 and a highly uncertain multi-year process. Really?

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker. More blog posts from John Levine can also be read here.

Related topics: Domain Names, ICANN, Multilinguism, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

Somewhere, In The Aegean Sea... John Berryhill  –  Nov 19, 2009 11:07 AM PDT

Be careful.  ICM Registry may take over an Aegean island, declare independence from Greece, and found the Republic of XXX (Greek chi chi chi - not ascii XXX)

I don't follow all of ICANN's policy Kim Davies  –  Nov 19, 2009 11:23 AM PDT

I don't follow all of ICANN's policy discussions closely so I may be wrong, but I understand that there is work ongoing, including during the Seoul meeting, to ensure that country names (including all translations of them) are prohibited as gTLDs pending the conclusion of the ccNSO's IDN ccTLD policy development process, that will likely classify ".magyar" etc. as ccTLDs.

As for a ".românia", the fast track IDN ccTLD process is limited to non-Latin character sets precisely because the programme's raison d'etre is that it is unreasonably burdensome for users of Chinese, Arabic etc. to use Latin characters in part of their domain name. For users of Latin-based scripts, including those that might use diacritical marks, that argumentation does not apply so are not eligible to apply under fast-track.

Unreasonably burdensome John Levine  –  Nov 19, 2009 11:37 AM PDT

I didn't pick Serbia at random.  Although their preferred character set is Cyrillic, Serbian is nearly identical to Croatian which is written in Roman characters, and everyone in Serbia can read them without difficulty.  (For example, the Serbian edition of my Internet for Dummies is in Roman characters.) Since they're not burdened by using Roman letters, would ICANN turn down their application for a Cyrillic ccTLD?  And if not, how could they turn down the Romanians who are equally unburdened?  I understand the theory, but I cannot see how it could possibly stand up if any country challenged it.

Cutting and pasting from the procedure, here Kim Davies  –  Nov 19, 2009 11:55 AM PDT

Cutting and pasting from the procedure, here is the eligibility for country's to get a fast-track IDN ccTLD string assigned. As with any line in the sand, there could be corner cases where some may judge there should be a different outcome, but this was the definitional compromise that seemed appropriate and well supported during the development of the fast-track process:

"The language must be an official language in the corresponding country or territory, and have legal status in the country or territory, or serve as a language of administration.

The language requirement is considered verified as follows:

1) If the language is listed for the relevant country or territory as an ISO 639 language in Part Three of the Technical Reference Manual for the standardization of Geographical Names, United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (“UNGEGN Manual”); or

2) If the language is listed as an administrative language for the relevant country or territory in the ISO 3166-1 standard under column 9 or 10; or

3) If the relevant public authority in the country or territory confirms that the language is used or served as follows, (either by letter or link to the relevant government constitution or other online documentation from an official government website):
a. used in official communications of the relevant public authority; and
b. serves as a language of administration."

Yes indeed John Levine  –  Nov 19, 2009 2:01 PM PDT

Each of the three languages is the ISO 639 national language for the country in question, so it looks like they're all eligible to me.

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