Imagine you are traveling to a place where you don't know the local language and you're unable to understand important road signs and begin to feel lost. This is the same experience non-English speakers can have while trying to navigate the Internet using domain names in a language and script they cannot read or understand. With the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), users around the world are able to use domain names in their own local languages and scripts (e.g., Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Thai, Russian, Vietnamese).
Enabling the secure and stable use of IDNs is crucial to growing a multilingual Internet and digital inclusivity. As stated in ICANN's mission, the organization (org) works "to adopt or implement policies or procedures that take into account the use of domain names as natural-language identifiers." In an effort to fulfill this mission, IDNs and Universal Acceptance (UA) are included in ICANN's Strategic Plan for FY21-25 as well as the ICANN President and CEO's FY22 goals.
To help track and highlight ongoing IDN work, ICANN org will publish an annual IDN Progress Report. The first edition of the report covers three main areas of work: developing an IDN technical knowledge base, supporting IDN policy development and implementation, and IDN operations at ICANN org. A brief summation of the report is below. To view the full 2021 IDN Progress Report, click here.
ICANN org is committed to supporting the community's work on IDNs in addition to fulfilling its mission to ensure their stable and secure use by global Internet users. As this work continues, we look forward to providing more updates on progress made. If you would like to get involved in IDN or UA-related work, please visit ICANN's IDN page as well as the Universal Acceptance Steering Group's (UASG) website.
Developing an IDN Technical Knowledge Base
In order for IDNs to be used in a secure and stable manner, Root Zone Label Generation Rules (RZ-LGR) have to be developed for each applicable script. As of now, a total of 18 scripts have been integrated into RZ-LGR-4: Arabic, Bangla, Chinese, Devanagari, Ethiopic, Georgian, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Hebrew, Kannada, Khmer, Lao, Malayalam, Oriya, Sinhala, Tamil, Telugu, and Thai. Proposals for additional scripts will be finalized and integrated into the next version in 2022.
The knowledge gained through this process has also enabled ICANN org to work with the script communities to develop second-level reference LGRs, which allow for consistent and transparent IDN table reviews by ICANN org. The IDN Guidelines Working Group also published the fourth version of the IDN Implementation Guidelines in 2018 which is currently being reviewed.
Supporting IDN Policy Development and Implementation
The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) and Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) are currently developing their respective IDN-related policies. Per the ICANN Board's request, they are taking the Recommendations for Managing IDN Variant Top-Level Domains (TLDs) and Recommendations for the Technical Utilization of the RZ-LGR into account, while coordinating to develop consistent solutions.
Based on the GNSO's SubPro Final Report, ICANN org is now working on the SubPro Operational Design Phase (ODP) which includes work on IDNs.
IDN Implementation and Operations at ICANN Org
ICANN org has been working with gTLD registry operators to ensure that contractually-approved IDN tables are available in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) repository. ICANN org has made improvements to the IDN Table review process and made the IDN Table Review Tool available to help improve consistency and transparency of reviews.
ICANN org continues to process requests for IDN country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) received through the Fast Track Process and provides necessary information and support for new IDN ccTLD applicants.
For any inquiries related to ICANN org's work on IDNs, please contact us at IDNProgram@icann.org.