Monday, 20 June, might go down in history books as the day the Internet changed dramatically.
That’s the day ICANN’s Board of Directors votes on whether to finalize the Applicant Guidebook, a document that explains how any established institution (such as a government, business, or non-profit organization) can apply to operate a generic top-level domain (gTLD) of its own choosing. If the Board approves the Guidebook as final, the clock starts ticking on a process that could lead to hundreds of new gTLDs by 2013. In addition to familiar TLDs such as .com, .org, and .net, Internet users could potentially see new domain name extensions made of almost any word, in any language.
New gTLDs are expected to introduce innovation, choice, and competition to Internet services. World press is already following the issue of new gTLDs with great interest, generating coverage from Reuters, Associated Press, National Public Radio, ABC News, ZDNet Asia, and other outlets.
But the future of top-level domains is not the only substantive topic ICANN tackles this week.
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ICANN’s vibrant volunteer community will consider many other important issues between 19 – 24 June. A partial list includes:
Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). IDNs enable people who use languages based on scripts other than ASCII (letters A – Z) to offer users domain names in non-ASCII characters. (Example languages include Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, and many others.) But some issues still need much more work. For example, if you type in Arabic, a character that looks the same from one keyboard to another may produce different technical code when typed, depending on whether your keyboard was made in Iran or Pakistan. When the character is used in a URL, the differing code can take you to a site you didn’t intend to visit. These “variants,” and associated issues, are being dealt with so that all users from all regions can reliably visit the sites they want. The discussion continues on Monday.
Inter-Registrar Transfers. Transfer-related issues are the number one area of complaint according to data from ICANN Compliance. Should there be a process or special provisions for the urgent return of a hijacked domain name? The GNSO Council votes on the issue Wednesday.
New gTLD Applicants from Developing Countries. If the Board approves the process for creating new gTLDs, developing countries may have a need for a new gTLD, but lack the financial means to apply for and operate it. A working group comprised of members from ICANN Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees has been considering how such groups might be funded if they apply for a TLD. The group offers a report on Thursday.
These are just a few examples of dozens of topics that the ICANN community will attempt to move forward during a week containing more than 120 panels, presentations, workshops and other sessions. If you’re not in Singapore, you can participate remotely for most sessions. For details, see the Remote Participation Page and the full meeting schedule.