What are IDN Variant TLDs?
Internationalized Domain Names, or IDNs, use character sets such as Chinese, Arabic, Cyrillic or any other characters outside US-ASCII. An IDN variant TLD can be defined as one that may look like or be considered exchangeable with another TLD by a user of the related writing system. For example, a string in traditional Chinese commonly has an equivalent simplified Chinese. A potential example in Latin characters is encyclopædia and encyclopaedia.
To implement IDN variants into the root zone, the ICANN community, at the direction of the Board, undertook several projects to study and make recommendations on their viability, sustainability and delegation. Conducted in four phases spanning three years, these projects form the basis of an implementation plan that will be considered by ICANN's Board of Directors.
We are two years into the Program and have completed the third of four phases of the IDN Variant TLD Program. With the completion of Projects 2.1 and 6, ICANN published two final reports on 21 March 2013: Project 2.1, the IDN Root Label Generation Rules (LGR) Procedure [PDF, 1.39 MB], and Project 6, the User Experience Study for Active Variant TLDs [PDF, 1.38 MB]. The IDN Variant team conducted a public session at the ICANN Beijing meeting on the IDN Variant TLD Program to explain the Procedure and the results from the Study. In the meantime, Program's work continues to ensure a secure and stable delegation of IDN variant TLDs and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2014. The delegation of IDN Variant TLDs will then enable IDN TLD operators to fully utilize their IDN TLDs to meet their users expectations.
Recently concluded phase 3 of the Program focused ICANN and community resources on the creation and maintenance of a label generation ruleset process for the root, which is on the critical path to a variant management process for the root zone. A basic assumption is that no variant TLDs can actually be implemented until the necessary community work on the code point repertoire and label generation rules for the root has been finalized, which is expected to be done during the fourth phase of the Program.
ICANN is working on accelerating the last phase of the Program in order to provide, as fast as possible, appropriate solutions to IDN Variant TLDs delegation without compromising the security and stability of the DNS.
As initially indicated by the 25 September 2010 Board resolution, IDN variant TLDs delegation requires that appropriate variant management solutions be developed and implemented. Therefore IDN Variant TLDs cannot be delegated unless Phase 4 work has been finalized and the first version of the root LGR has been published.
The Program will enter its last Phase consisting of the following three implementation projects, as initially planned in the IDN Variant TLD Program Plan [PDF, 576 KB]:
- Implementation of the Label Generation Ruleset Procedure (P2.2) representing the actual development of the LGR for IDNA Labels for the Root Zone.
- Update new gTLD and IDN ccTLD Programs (P7) to implement the changes needed to account for variants in general and particularly the root LGR and User Experience study recommendations.
- Update ICANN/IANA processes and systems (P8) to implement the changes specified in the new gTLD and IDN ccTLD Programs to support IDN variant TLDs.
Following is a history of the Program. Designed to be a one-stop resource for IDN variants, this web page summarizes the different phases and activities and provides links to important documents.
Phase 1: Case studies
ICANN conducted case studies in Arabic, Chinese (Han script), Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, and Latin scripts, creating a commonly understood glossary of terms and identifying common challenges of linguistic accuracy, technical feasibility, and more.
Please visit the links below to read the individual reports:
- Arabic Case Study Team Report [PDF, 1.06 MB]
- Chinese Case Study Team Report [PDF, 2.86 MB]
- Cyrillic Case Study Team Report [PDF, 1.01 MB]
- Devanagari Case Study Team Report [PDF, 462 KB]
- Greek Case Study Team Report [PDF, 354 KB]
- Latin Case Study Team Report [PDF, 425 KB]
Phase 2: Integrated Issues Report
Experts from each case study team collaborated on an Integrated Issues Report, summarizing issues, outlining areas for further study and making recommendations for potential solutions.
Please visit the link below to read the final Integrated Issues Report:
- Integrated Issues Report [PDF, 2.15 MB]
Phase 3: IDN Variant TLD Program
Following the recommendations identified within the Integrated Issues Report, the project team has created a Program Plan for the next steps. Phase 3 was initially comprised of the three projects described below. Two of these projects (P2.1 and P6) were finalized on 21 March 2013 with the Publication of corresponding final reports. This milestone publication concludes the third (out of four) phase of the Program while Project 1 will continue its work during phase 4 to further develop the specifications for the Label Generation Ruleset Tool.
Label Generation Ruleset Tool Project (P1)
The first project's scope is to develop a specification to represent the IDN LGR and to perform the actions that Registries require to process IDN Variants. ICANN staff leads this project and published in 2012, through the IETF technical standard body, a corresponding Internet Draft to gather input from interested parties: http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-davies-idntables. Input should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Procedure to Develop and Maintain the Label Generation Rules for the DNS Root Zone in Respect of IDNA Labels Project (P2.1)
The second project focuses on the development of the process for the creation and maintenance of the LGR. The Project Team consists of a number of consultant experts recruited by ICANN, supported by a team of Internet community experts from across the globe representing multiple scripts and languages. Following two face-to-face sessions, conference and mailing work discussions and numerous community input processes, the team produced the final procedure document entitled "Procedure to Develop and Maintain the Label Generation Rules for the DNS Root Zone in Respect of IDNA Labels" [PDF, 790 KB].
Examining the User Experience Implications of Active Variant TLDs Project (P6)
The third project is a study to understand the issues that end-users, software developers and application developers might face when dealing with IDN Variant TLDs. The team sought to establish a dialog with the community to refine draft proposed principles, impacts and recommendations through numerous public sessions, public webinar and public comment processes. Incorporating inputs received from the community, ICANN staff and expert consultants produced the report entitled "Examining the User Experience Implications of Active Variant TLDs" [PDF, 507 KB]. The output of this project will inform the later project work.
For more information on the IDN Variant TLD Program, please visit the ICANN Community Wiki.