DotAsia CEO Edmon Chung talks about universal acceptance of IDNs. A decade ago it was noted some new top-level domains were not working properly in browsers and email software. The problem is still there and about to get much bigger…
Q> There is a lot going on at ICANN London with the IANA transition, accountability discussions, auctions and of course the roll-out of new gTLDs. What is the topic that is most on your mind at the moment?
A< Without a doubt, universal acceptance of IDNs. It is very important that everyone take this issue seriously; without it consumers might lose trust in the entire DNS. And ICANN in particular needs to take a central role in the coordination and facilitation of bringing people together so it can be properly addressed.
Q> What exactly is the problem of universal acceptance and what is your suggestion for resolving it?
A< Many of the new TLDs and especially the non-ASCII IDNs will not work with common Internet software such as browsers, email software and so on because they were built to work for how the DNS used to be rather than how it is now. Now, neither ICANN nor its immediate community can ‘solve’ the issue but we must start with our own community. We can, for example, make sure we have fully IDN aware systems so users can not only register IDNs but use them at least to setup nameservers, DNS hosting, web hosting and emails. We need to start community wide coordination now.
Q> What approach or role would you like to see ICANN taking?
A< In my mind, the ideal approach ICANN could take would be to convene a community wide steering group that would include participants from all organs of ICANN, including ALAC, GAC, ccNSO, GNSO, SSAC, RSSAC in fact ASO as well, but not stop there, ICANN should also help invite participants from other parts of the Internet community including application level organizations like WITSA, as well as W3C, IETF, and so on.
Q> So assuming this group was set up, what work would it undertake and how would it function?
A< The group should work with an ICANN staff team to produce three things: first, a set of best practices for IDN Acceptance in systems that is based on and consolidating the community’s existing experience. Then, second, create a set of measurements of IDN Acceptance so we can track and measure our progress. And then third and last, continued study measuring IDN acceptance on the internet, including domain registries and registrars. The group does not need to meet all the time like GNSO working groups, we just need to meet maybe two or three times a year and keep track of progress to make sure we move forward methodically. Such meetings could coincide with ICANN meetings, which would also enable us to invite other parts of the Internet community to join.
Q> How much work been done on this issue before or would this work be starting from scratch?
A< So I was very much involved in the JIIG report [the Joint ccNSO-GNSO IDN Group, which published its final report in November last year]. We came up with four main recommendations which addressed the two different sides to this issue: the technical side and the advocacy side. Following from the JIG Final Report, I hope that ICANN could make IDN acceptance a strategic item, at the same level—or higher—of advocating for IPv6 and DNSSEC.
Q> Is there any indication that ICANN has taken into account those recommendations and is planning to do what you suggest?
A< The ICANN board seems to have not considered the JIG report yet and I am not sure what their schedule or priority level is on the issue. But at a recent APTLD meeting, I heard an encouraging presentation that indicated there is finally a change in the attitude of staff that ICANN has a role to play in this. As for forming the community wide steering group, I think maybe that is something ALAC can take the lead on.