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IDN Update: Arabic IDN ccTLDs

2 November 2010

At the recent ICANN Board meeting, the IDN ccTLD delegation request for قطر. ("Qatar") to the Supreme Council of Information and Communication, ictQATAR, was approved. This means that users will soon have an additional top-level domain extension to choose from registering domain names, where the entire string is in Arabic characters. The new extension will be managed by ictQATAR’s Regulatory Authority through the Qatar Domains Registry. It is expected to be launched by early 2011.

The actual delegation of قطر. will bring the total number of IDN ccTLDs in the DNS root zone to 16, represented by 13 different countries/territories.

ICANN is actively processing other requests for IDN ccTLDs. A total of 33 requests in 22 different languages have been received. ICANN releases information about received requests after they pass the String Evaluation step, as described below. An earlier survey estimates that a total of 50 IDN ccTLDs will be requested in the initial two years of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process.

The IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process is currently under its first annual review. Commenters are asked to suggest potential changes to improve the process for the end-users, including: the respective IDN ccTLD managers, the governments as well as the users of the resulting IDN ccTLDs (both registrants and general Internet users). The public comment period is open until 17 December 2010. There will also be a session scheduled in the ICANN meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, to discuss the performance and potential improvement of the process, and to facilitate useful community communication about the review. More details can be found here.

Arabic use in IDNs

Arabic has now become one of the top non-Latin scripts to be used as IDN ccTLD. Ten out of the total of 19 countries or territories that have passed the String Evaluation step in the Fast Track Process have requested strings that are in the Arabic script. The IDN ccTLDs in Arabic that are either delegated in the DNS root zone, or have passed the String Evaluation step in the Fast Track Process are:








Iran, Islamic Republic of

Pending delegation






Pending delegation


Palestinian Territory, Occupied




Pending delegation


Saudi Arabia



Syrian Arab Republic

Pending delegation





United Arab Emirates


Arabic is among the most highly used languages on the Internet today. The Middle-East has an average Internet penetration of just over 20%, and significant, additional growth is predicted. Users in the region will now have easier access to the Internet with the ability to use their primary language for the entire domain name.

About the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process:

The IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program requires participants to demonstrate that they fulfill a number of requirements:

  • the script used to represent the IDN ccTLDs must be non-Latin;
  • the languages used to express the IDN ccTLDs must be official in the corresponding country or territory; and
  • a specific set of technical requirements must be met (as evaluated by an external DNS Stability Panel comprised of DNS and IDN experts).

The request and evaluation processes entail three steps:

  • Preparation (by the requester in the country / territory). Community consensus is built for which IDN ccTLD to apply for, how it is run, and which organization will be running it, along with preparing and gathering all the required supporting documentation.
  • String Evaluation: incoming requests to ICANN in accordance with the criteria described above: the technical and linguistic requirements for the IDN ccTLD string(s). Applications are received through an online system available together with additional material supporting the process at: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/idn/fast-track/
  • String Delegation: requests successfully meeting string evaluation criteria are eligible to apply for delegation following the same ICANN IANA process as is used for ASCII based ccTLDs. String delegation requests are submitted to IANA root zone management.

For more details about the IDN Program at ICANN please go to: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/idn/

About ICANN:

To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer—a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet. ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers. ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. For more information please visit: http://www.icann.org/.