MARINA DEL REY, Calif.—A working group of the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) tasked with developing a secure process for introducing internationalized domain names (IDN) has said that it will begin a fast-track process to roll out a limited number of IDN ccTLDs.
IDNs are domains that do not use Latin characters. "Currently, domain names can only be displayed using the Latin alphabet letters A-Z, the digits 0-9 and the hyphen, but in the future countries will be able to display country-code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) in their native language. ccTLDs are those that have a two-letter country designation at the end of a domain name," says PC World.
ICANN announced the expedited process at this week's Internet Governance Forum in Rio de Janeiro. Starting Nov. 16, applications will be accepted that will jump start a course of action that has been on ICANN's drawing board for several years, as countries such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia that use non-Latin characters have complained about being literally excluded from the Domain Name System (DNS)—which "enables the translation of domain names written with characters and digits into IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, which can then be queried by a Web browser." For some countries, speed is clearly of the essence.
"There are certain countries that clearly need to have an IDN representation of their territory as soon as possible," Chris Disspain, the country code manager for Australia and the chair of ICANN's Country Code Names Supporting Organization, told The Register. "So we've working on a fast track approach that will give those countries IDN ccTLDs sooner rather than later."
"Those countries include China, Taiwan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and various other Arab nations," the paper reports. "Disspain and ICANN have been testing IDNs for the past two weeks, and they hope to finalize a plan for these big-name countries within the next six months."
Registries will be charged $26,000 for an evaluation fee, which may be paid in the local currency, plus an annual fee of 3 percent of a registry's revenue. According to PC World, IDNs must be in an official language of a country or territory and have legal status or at minimum "serve as a language of administration."
Alaska Miller of Silicon Alley Insider calls the move to internationalize domains the biggest change to the way the Internet works since its inception, and says ICANN has probably just sparked an international gold rush. "So yeah," he says, "if you're looking for a quick buck, brush up on your Chinese. It's not exactly glamorous, but selling domains can be big business."
In support of his contention, Miller notes the following sales figures:
Some of those numbers may not be quite accurate, and the domain market may not be as robust as it used to be, for many obvious reasons, but Miller's point is well made. Non-Latin domains could easily spark a buying frenzy that equals or supasses the exuberance of Latin domain speculation.