ICANN Announcements

Read ICANN Announcements to stay informed of the latest policymaking activities, regional events, and more.

IDN Status Report

28 October 2007

1. .test IDN TLD Evaluations

On 9 October 2007, eleven evaluation-purpose IDN TLDs were inserted into the root zone and propagation was initiated to the 13 root servers. These IDN TLDs were inserted into the root zone as part of the .test Program that was subsequently launched on 15 October 2007 at 4.10am PDT.

The .test Program contains two test facilities:

  • a live replication of the Autonomica laboratory test conducted previously (see http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-4-07mar07.htm), and
  • an online evaluation facility where end-users, application developers, registry operators and any other interested participants can test fully-localized domain names (IDNs) and provide feedback concerning the usability of such.

Status: The online evaluation facility was launched on 15 October 2007 in the form of eleven IDNwikis, which can be accessed from the main gateway at http://idn.icann.org. ICANN is also concluding the execution of a contract with Autonomica to conduct the live replication of the previous laboratory test.

Future Milestones: Additional work will be conducted by staff and the eleven volunteer IDNwiki moderators to ensure that user experiences generated with IDN TLDs in applications are communicated and reported. One area of specific interest is adding testing capabilities for email (as the email IETF protocol for IDNs is approaching finalization); work in this regard is currently in progress.

The .test Program was enabled by the successful completion of the following the activities:

A. Autonomica laboratory test of A-labels (IDN TLDs)

The laboratory testing included testing of A-labels (IDN TLDs) inserted into a replication of the DNS root zone system as NS-records.

Status: Completed. The February 2007 report showed no negative effect.

B. IANA Procedure for the Insertion of A-labels into the Root Zone:

This procedure contains a specification for the insertion and management of evaluation-purpose A-labels in the DNS. The procedure includes an emergency removal procedure which was specifically requested for any potential scenario where damaging negative effect is measured to the DNS, necessitating removal of a TLD from the root zone (the expectation is that this procedure will not need to be invoked ).

Status: Finalized and implemented, incorporating public comment and recommendations received in particular from the RSSAC.

Future Milestones: The procedure is only available for the eleven evaluation-purpose IDN TLDs. However, staff will review and analyze the usability of the procedure and consider requesting permission to use a potential revised version of the procedure for management of IDN TLDs inserted in the root zone for production.

C. IDN TLD Root Server Performance / Tolerance Document

The initial paper contained a draft tolerance measure invoking the emergency procedure described above under the IANA Procedure. After review and recommendations by root-server operators, the paper was revised to describe a 24/7 procedure by which any of the 13 root-server operators can contact ICANN at any time and request that an IDN TLD be removed due to technical issues.

Status: Finalized and implemented.

D. IDN TLD Application Evaluation Facility:

A draft paper described ICANN’s plans for two IDN TLD evaluation facilities and activities related to the insertion of A-labels (IDN TLDs) into the root zone. The plan included:

  • a live replication of the Autonomica laboratory test, and
  • an online evaluation facility where end-users, application developers, registry operators and any other interested participants could use fully-localized domain names (IDNs) and provide feedback concerning the usability of such.

Status: The draft test plan was published for comments prior to the San Juan meeting in June 2007 (see http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-2-19jun07.htm). Following public comments, the plan was discussed during the ICANN meeting in San Juan (June 2007) as well as at the RSSAC meeting taking place during the IETF meeting in Chicago (July 2007). Subject to these and other consultations a finalized version of the plan was provided to the ICANN Board for consideration. Implementation commenced following approval of the plan, including approval of the insertion of the suggested evaluations strings (<.test> translated into a number of different languages), by the ICANN Board of Directors.

2. IDN Security Study (SSAC)

The SSAC launched earlier this year a study to identify DNS security issues associated with the potential deployment of IDN TLDs. The study focuses on the following question: "What impact will the introduction of IDN TLDs have on the security and stability of the Domain Name System?"

Status: Since numerous study participants needed time to work on critical IDNA protocol revision components over summer, the study was placed on hold between July and September 2007. Work has resumed in October 2007; some members of the group met in Taiwan from 19-21 October 2007.  The summer hiatus will result in a delay from the original plan to conclude work by the end of 2007.

Future Milestones: Collaboration to further define the scope of the work, incorporating the experience of the eleven evaluation-purpose IDN TLDs in the root zone, will occur in the Los Angeles meeting. The study group plans to engage with several "experimental" IDN TLD communities to gather data on their implementations, and make observations regarding any impact on the stability and integrity of the DNS.  The study also anticipates providing recommendations regarding evaluation of IDN TLDs to the ICANN community prior to a possible call for new gTLD applications in 2008. The study findings will be made publicly available.

3. IDN Guidelines

Version 1.0 of the IDN Guidelines version was published in June 2003 (see http://www.icann.org/general/idn-guidelines-20jun03.htm) regarding the implementation of IDNs and the IDNA protocol. Compliance with the guidelines has been a requirement for gTLD registry operators and a recommendation for ccTLD registry operators. The guidelines are subject to on-going review and revision based on the experience gained by TLD registries. The ultimate intention is the creation of a Best Current Practices (BCP) document, and migration of the IDN Guidelines into a format that will more naturally support adoption by all registry operators that implement IDNs, on all levels of the DNS.

Status: Version 2.2 of the IDN Guidelines was posted for public review on 11 May 2007 (see http://www.icann.org/topics/idn/idn-guidelines-26apr07.pdf). This is the first version to describe IDN TLDs.

Future Milestones: Future revisions will be based upon the IDNA protocol review. B ased on the IDN policy development work of the GNSO, ccNSO, and GAC, it is anticipated that the IDN Guidelines will be requirements for any future IDN TLD (gTLD or ccTLD) registry Operator.

4. IDN Repository

The IDN repository of TLD IDN Practices (see, http://www.iana.org/assignments/idn/) was created to support the development of IDN technology. The repository is a set of language and script tables developed and provided by TLD registries. The IDN Guidelines specifically call for a TLD registry to publish the aggregate set of code points that it makes available in clearly identified IDN-specific character tables, and….define equivalent character variants if registration policies are established on their basis. The IDN repository was launched to publish such tables online for public access. The latest development for the IDN repository entails a search mechanism and enhanced display functionality.

Status: Implemented and moved into day-to-day operations managed by IANA staff.

5. IDNs from User Interface through Applications to DNS

This topic covers the development of a paper describing IDN issues related to usability and user experience of IDNs, including: the point an IDN is entered into a user interface, applications, and the DNS. Additional expertise is needed to complete this work, in particular in the area of user-level applications that take keystrokes on some form of input device and attempt to interpret them as Unicode.

This initiative was requested by the technical community and launched in order to indicate places where IDN user experience issues may arise, and enable ICANN and the technical community to make informed decisions as to what additional IDN analysis or tests might be necessary. The paper will include descriptions of issues related to: keyboards, operating systems, interaction between applications, software libraries, resolvers, and the description of how the resolution of the resulting A-label will be parsed in the systems and represented at the UI for the end user.

Status: ICANN is actively seeking additional expertise necessary to perform this work. Once completed, the paper will be made publicly available and used in the continued discussions among the technical community to determine if additional IDN components need further analysis or revision.

6. IDN Policy

While there are ongoing consultations between the GNSO, the ccNSO, and the GAC, further work on IDN policy remains to be completed in the respective organizations, as follows:

Generic Names Supporting Organization:

The GNSO has considered IDN TLD issues as part of its New gTLD policy development deliberations, including modalities for including internationalized top-level domains as part of the future new gTLD application process. The GNSO launched an IDN Working Group last year that has now finalized its report (see http://gnso.icann.org/drafts/idn-wg-fr-22mar07.htm), identifying and addressing matters such as the introduction of IDN gTLDs, geo-political details, relationships with existing gTLD strings, concerns relating to existing second-level domain name holders, and techno-policy details.

Future Milestones: The mapping of the areas of agreement in the GNSO IDN Working Group Outcomes Report to the draft New TLDs Final Report is underway, primarily as implementation guidelines. While the GNSO policy recommendations for the introduction of new gTLDs have not yet been approved by the Board, ICANN staff is in process of planning for implementation of key elements of the policy.

The goal is to have the policy implemented and the process for applications for new gTLDs open in 2008. Whether or not this will include IDN TLDs is dependent on the finalization of the technical work needed to ensure that IDN TLDs are implemented in a stable manner.

Country-code Names Supporting Organization and Government Advisory Committee

A joint ccNSO/GAC Working Group produced an issues paper on the selection of IDN ccTLD labels paralleling the ISO 3166-1 two-letter codes (see http://ccnso.icann.org/announcements/announcement-09jul07.htm) as a response to an ICANN Board resolution in Sao Paulo (December 2006). The paper was presented to the ICANN Board in San Juan (June 2007) at which time the ICANN Board requested the community (GNSO, ccNSO, GAC, ALAC) to address the issues listed in the paper as well as explore the potential for both a long-term and an interim approach.

Status: The ccNSO launched a formal policy development process on 2 October 2007, primarily to address issues in the paper. In addition, the Chair of the ccNSO wrote a letter to ccTLD managers to ascertain the near-term demand for IDN ccTLDs. The letter is publicly available at http://ccnso.icann.org/workinggroups/letter-to-cctld-managers-introduction-of-idns.pdf. Further, on 14 October 2007, the ccNSO published discussion material on how an interim approach to IDN ccTLDs might be designed and managed.

Future Milestones: The ccNSO and the GAC have a number of meetings scheduled in Los Angeles on the topic on the interim approach to IDN ccTLDs. At this time it is anticipated that replies will have been received to the letter discussed above, which will be useful as an overview of the interim need.

7. IDNA Protocol Review (IETF)

An informal expert panel, working as what the IETF calls a "design team," evaluated experiences gained in the implementation of IDNA since its introduction in 2003, and identified several key areas of future work. These were described in several documents that triggered a formal revision of the IDNA protocol. The core components in the revision effort include: definition of valid IDN labels, an inclusion-based model that recognizes the level of understanding of the implications of the Unicode handling of various scripts on use in IDNs (the current model is exclusion-based), elimination of confusing and non-reversible character mappings, fixing a right-to-left error in Stringprep, and eliminating Unicode version dependencies, thereby permitting more scripts to be used in IDNs now and in the future. The issues with the current IDN model that led to the revision work are discussed in RFC4690.

Status: Latest version of the IDNA revision proposals are:




Documents such as these (known in the IETF as "Internet Drafts") are frequently updated. Updates result in changes of the number at the end of the name. The ICANN IDN pages will be kept up to date with links to the current versions as they evolve.

Future Milestones: The review is moving forward following standard IETF processes. The intention is to finalize this work within the current calendar year.

8. IDN Outreach, Communication and Participation

ICANN staff is conducting outreach through many different fora: participation in IDN-related events, recommending agendas and speakers for IDN-related events, financial support, day-to-day e-mail and phone correspondence, recommendations, and general information and network sharing. In this work, staff provides updates on IDN work underway as well as on the way going forward.

Status: Several outreach and educational sessions have been and will continue to be conducted.

A few examples of activity since the last ICANN meeting in June 2007 are:

  1. a two-day media tour to New York and Boston, which resulted in global coverage of IDNs from the Associated Press interview, a front page (business section) story in the Wall Street Journal, and a podcast on the NPR-BBC show The World.

  2. taking part in the Arabic Domain Names Working Group meetings held under the auspices of the League of Arab States and attended by government representatives and ccTLD managers in the Arab region.

  3. jointly with TWNIC, organizing the event held in Taipei on 19-21 October 2007, titled “ Toward the New Era of Internet”. The event contained full-day sessions on IDN topics including the .test IDNwiki, IDN protocol revisions, policy work, and security matters for users.

Face-to-face meetings have been held with among others, governments and ccTLD registry operator representatives in more than 30 countries (starting 2006).

Future Milestones: A regularly updated calendar of IDN-related events is maintained at: http://www.icann.org/topics/idn/meetings.htm

9. IDN TLD Implementation and Deployment

Description: The deployment of IDN TLDs is anticipated to be the last project step in the development phase of ICANN’s IDN Program. It will take into consideration the entire suite of project activities described above, and generate a process for the deployment of internationalized top level labels (if such is approved and considered stable for the DNS).