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ICANN Montevideo Meeting Topic: Internationalized Domain Names

Posted: 28 August 2001

One of the topics scheduled for discussion at the 9 September 2001 ICANN Public Forum in Montevideo is Internationalized Domain Names. As described below, at its 10 September 2001 meeting the ICANN Board will consider forming a steering group to assist in coordinating work on policy development in this area.

Click here to enter the Public Comment Forum on introduction of internationalized domain names (IDNs).

Click here to read the Working Group's Report.

Introduction

An interoperable internationalized domain name (IDN) system that is beneficial to consumers is a subject of discussions in different ICANN forums. The IDN Working Group, which was designated by the Board to "identify the various internationalization efforts and the issues they raise, to engage in dialogue with technical experts and other participants in these efforts and to make appropriate recommendations to the Board," recently concluded its Report. Identified in the Report were significant policy issues that should be resolved in parallel to the technical introduction of internationalized domain names into the domain name system. The Report recommends to the Board to establish a Steering Committee to oversee further work on the IDN policy issues.

This discussion paper provides some background of ICANN discussions on IDN, concluding with a suggested Charter for a Steering Committee to coordinate work on the policy issues identified in the IDN Working Group Report, and report back to the Board.

Background

In September 2000, "internationalized domain names" were the subject of an ICANN discussion and Board resolution noting "that it is important that the Internet evolve to be more accessible to those who do not use the ASCII character set," but stressing that "the internationalization of the Internet's domain name system must be accomplished through standards that are open, non-proprietary, and fully compatible with the Internet's existing end-to-end model and that preserve globally unique naming in a universally resolvable public name space."

At the Melbourne ICANN Public Forum, the Chair of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) provided a presentation on the technical challenges of IDN. The GAC's Melbourne Communiqué (10 March 2001) emphasized that with regards to IDNs, including testbed initiatives, "three key public policy areas need to be kept at the forefront of the considerations of ICANN, its Supporting Organizations, and the broader Internet community:

1) Essential importance of interoperability of the present and future Internet;

2) Prevention of cybersquatting and resolution of disputes in the IDNs environments should be addressed by appropriate means and processes such as an appropriate dispute resolution policy and implementation of sunrise periods; and

3) The application of competition and market access, consumer protection and intellectual property principles."

Following the public forum discussions, at its Melbourne meeting the ICANN Board approved resolution 01.39 designating an internal working group to "identify the various internationalization efforts and the issues they raise, to engage in dialogue with technical experts and other participants in these efforts and to make appropriate recommendations to the Board."

IDN Working Group

In April 2001, the IDN Working Group posted its mission statement, outlining that it would engage in fact finding concerning three clusters of questions:

  • What are the perceived technical problems raised by IDNs, what are the possible solutions, and what are the pros and cons relating to these possible solutions?
  • What are the perceived legal and other policy questions raised by IDNs, and what are the possible solutions?
  • What IDN activities are actually underway, how extensive are they, and what bearing do they have on the technical and legal issues referenced above? Looking at the policy issues in parallel to reaching of consensus by the IETF on the technical standard is important.

In June 2001, the IDN Working Group presented a status report for discussion at the Stockholm ICANN meeting, and outlined its next steps of posting of follow-up questions to its status report, with the expectation of completing its next report by the Montevideo ICANN Board meeting.

Also at the Stockholm meeting, the Governmental Advisory Committee's Communiqué (3 June 2001) expanded upon the issue of testbed initiatives and the need for guidelines for the coordination of testbed environments.

The IDN Working Group Report, posted on 28 August 2001, concluded that given ICANN's prime directive of preserving the stability of the Internet, and noting that the adoption of an IDN standard to enable the internationalization of the domain name system in an open, non-proprietary way is ultimately the role of the IETF, there were several significant policy issues concerning IDNs which are properly within ICANN's purview. The Report urges ICANN to begin considering these policy issues in light of IETF's anticipated proposed standard for ASCII-compatible IDN encoding (ACE), and in parallel to the technical preparations for introducing internationalized domain names into the domain name system. The policy issues identified in the IDN Working Group's Report can be divided into three related policy areas:

1) The prevention of cybersquatting and resolution of trademark disputes in IDN environments. For example:

  • What are the appropriate means and processes to prevent cybersquatting and resolve disputes in IDN? Should there be a uniform dispute resolution policy?
  • What kind of Whois services should be provided?
  • How can cross-language (or multilingual) cybersquatting be prevented?
  • What standards for the resolution of disputes should be applied? How can the problems of trademarks versus translations or transliterations of a mark be addressed?
  • Should the existing UDRP be modified for IDN environments? And if so, would that also handle IDN disputes on the regional level?

2) The application of principles of competition, market access, consumer protection, and intellectual property protection. For example:

  • Where should implementation of IDNs occur in the DNS, at the second-level and below, under existing TLDs?
  • Should there be new IDN top-level domains, or internationalized top-level domains? If so, should they be sponsored, unsponsored, or be at the ccTLDs? If there would be new IDN TLDs, what role should ICANN play, if any? And how would the principle of registry competition be realized? How should the issue of trademarks and sunrise periods be addressed?
  • What measures are required to provide adequate consumer protection in the introduction and operation of IDNs?
  • What measures are required to address issues such as conflicting registrations due to similar character sets, backward compatibility, or special requirements of local languages.
  • What issues outside of intellectual property does Whois raise? For example, data protection?

3) Interoperability of the present and future Internet, including the use of testbeds. For example:

  • What steps should be taken to coordinate use of IDN testbeds so that they do not foster consumer confusion or harm users or the network?
  • What principles should guide the responsible coordination of testbed environments to preserve the universal connectivity and accessibility of the DNS while allowing for technical innovation?
  • What mechanisms should be in place to permit review by the Internet technical community of the results of testbeds?
  • What elements are necessary in the introduction of internationalized TLDs so as to ensure interoperability with the existing DNS?

In August 2001, following extensive debate, the IETF's IDN Working Group appears to be proceeding toward completion of a proposed standard on ACE encoding, with the possibility of future working groups looking at a standard for use of UTF-8 encoding, and compatibility with the ACE encoding.

Steering Committee on International Domain Names (IDN)

To move forward with an examination of the policy issues as recommended in the ICANN Board's internal working group, the Board may wish to adopt a resolution such as the following:

Whereas, in resolution 01.39 the Board established an internal working group on Internationalized Domain Names to identify the various internationalization efforts and the issues they raise, to engage in dialogue with technical experts and other participants in these efforts, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Board;

Whereas, the internal working group conducted various information-gathering activities, including the posting of a community survey;

Whereas, the internal working group presented an interim report at the ICANN Public Forum held in Stockholm on 3 June 2001, and that report was discussed at the Public Forum, at the Board Meeting, and on ICANN's Internationalized Domain Names web-based public forum;

Whereas, the internal working group presented its Final Report at the ICANN Public Forum held in Montevideo on 9 September 2001;

Whereas, the Final Report identified several policy issues meriting further evaluation and recommended that the examination of these issues proceed in parallel with continuing technical standardization and other preparatory work for the introduction of IDNs;

Whereas, the Final Report also recommended that the Board establish a Steering Committee to coordinate the work of various ICANN supporting organizations, committees, and other groups on the policy issues and to promote timely development of policy recommendations on them; and

Whereas, the Board has considered public comment on the Final Report made electronically and at the Montevideo Public Forum;

Resolved [01.__] that an IDN Steering Committee is hereby established to oversee the coordination of work on the policy issues identified in the the IDN Working Group Report;

Further resolved [01.__] that the IDN Steering Committee shall be responsible for promoting the coordination of the work of the ICANN supporting organizations, committees, and other groups on the policy issues arising from IDNs, as documented in the Final Report, and to promote timely development of policy recommendations on those issues for consideration by the community and the ICANN Board;

Further resolved [01.__] that in its policy-coordination activities, the IDN Steering Committee should seek to ensure that any recommendations are achieved through a bottom-up process, and that those recommendations reflect a wide range of expertise on the different aspects relevant to the issues;

Further resolved [01.__] that the President shall designate representatives from the IDN Working Group, the Supporting Organizations, , the Governmental Advisory Committee, to serve on the Steering Committee;

Resolved [01.__] that the Steering Committee is encouraged to commission panels of volunteer experts from different countries with practical experience in the policy issues identified in the Final Report, and linguistic experts (including experts in non-ASCII character sets), and languages not spoken by persons active in current discussions; and

Further resolved [01.__] that the Steering Committee is requested to present its initial work plan and schedule at the third ICANN annual meeting, to be held in Marina del Rey in November 2001.

Click here to enter the Public Comment Forum on introduction of internationalized domain names (IDNs).

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