Today, the ITU launched a new survey asking member states, ccTLDs and other ITU member organizations to provide answers to a specialized questionnaire asking for their experiences on the use of IDNs.
The ITU states that it is reaching out to ccTLDs to "collect information and experiences on Internationalized Domain Names under ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain) around the globe."
One of the goals of this survey is to collate information on the "needs and practices" of each ccTLD that is surveyed — so as to compile a report from the ITU that speaks to the implementation of IDNs around the world.
Such a report would indeed be useful, especially if the actual survey responses are provided "as-is" and not editorialized. My concern is that real data will be lost in editing, and we will end up in simply having a spin-doctored version of reality. Poland's Andrzej Bartosiewicz, who runs the .pl domain, is collecting the information on behalf of the ITU, and is presumably editing it.
It's particularly striking that ITU has targeted ccTLDs, since they can (and some already have) implement alternate versions of IDNs that work in just individual geographical regions.
"The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (Florianópolis, 2004) in Resolution 48 instructed Study Group 17 (Security, languages and telecommunication software) to study Internationalized Domain Names (IDN). The belief is that IDN implementation will contribute to easier and greater use of the Internet in those countries where the native or official languages are not represented in ASCII characters."
The ITU is asking some interesting and relevant questions. Examples:
The planned ICANN technical test for IDNs at the root, the creation of policy and technical groups to study IDNs, and the activities of the ITU underline just how hot this topic is. Reports indicate that close to 500,000 second level IDNs have been sold - so, in addition to the political and local demand for IDNs, an economic and marketplace demand seems to also exist.
ICANN is at a delicate point in the IDN debates now. Many ccTLDs are looking at China and the Arab League experiments and wondering if they should follow suit. ICANN needs to show a clear bias for action and learning, and take demonstrable steps to establish leadership and guidance in this area. Anything less and it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant for IDNs.
References: ITU questionnaire [MS Word]
By Ram Mohan, Executive Vice President & CTO, Afilias
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