IDN TLDs: pre-registrations, declined requests, etc.

5 February 2010

Tina Dam

IDN TLDs: pre-registrations, declined requests, and other misconceptions
Recent statements and speculations have been made concerning the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process and related issues. People seem to be most concerned about:

• ICANN denying some countries/territories access to the Fast Track Process
• ICANN approving IDN ccTLDs
• The notion of pre-registrations in new TLDs

This blog post is intended to set the record straight on these matters.

Is ICANN denying access to the Fast Track Process?
Let me be very clear: The Fast Track Process for submitting requests for IDN ccTLD strings is available to all eligible countries and territories. Statements like ICANN has refused IDN ccTLDs to some countries are incorrect. ICANN encourages eligible countries and territories to participate in the process and submit their IDN ccTLD requests.

This is an exciting new opportunity for Internet users around the world, and we would like to see as many users being served by these new initiatives as possible and as are deemed useful.

ICANN also has a support function in place at idncctldrequest@icann.org for interested parties.

So far, ICANN has received 17 requests encompassing 10 languages. These numbers will be updated from time to time at http://icann.org/en/topics/idn/fast-track/.

To comply with the confidentiality requirements of the process, ICANN cannot disclose any additional information. We cannot state whether a particular request has been received, or how far along the process a request is. We understand that the public has a great deal of interest in potential future IDN ccTLDs, and therefore some requesting entities have elected to publicly disclose information about their requests.

However, the only time ICANN can make information available about a request is after it successfully passes the String Evaluation step.

What strings are ‘approved’ and what does it mean?
Four IDN ccTLD strings were recently announced as successfully completing the String Evaluation step of the Fast Track Process. These requests are associated with Egypt, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The full announcement is here: http://icann.org/en/announcements/announcement-21jan10-en.htm.

However, passing the String Evaluation step is not the same as saying that ICANN approved these TLDs. These four entities must go through the final step in the Fast Track Process – String Delegation. The String Delegation step must be initiated by the respective country or territory, and that can only be done with requests that have successfully met the String Evaluation criteria. String Delegation follows the same ICANN IANA process that is used for ASCII-based ccTLDs, and thus String Delegation requests are submitted to IANA root zone management.

Only after String Delegation takes place will these TLDs be in the DNS root zone, and only then can resolutions requests against them be performed. In other words, this is when domains can be registered and used.

Has ICANN authorized pre-registration of TLD domain names?
ICANN has not authorized pre-registration of domain names in any potential future TLDs.

The reason is simple: There is no way to be sure that a certain string will become a TLD and hence available for domain name registration until all steps in the associated evaluation and delegation processes are successfully completed.

ICANN has previously posted warnings concerning speculative pre-registrations, and those warnings are still informative. You can review them at http://www.icann.org/en/announcements/icann-pr29sep00.htm

Tina Dam