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Implementing a Two-Panel String Similarity Review Process in the IDN ccTLD Fast Track

On 27 June 2013, the ICANN Board approved the proposed amendments of the Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) Fast Track Process Final Implementation Plan (FIP). The amendment implements a two-panel process for string similarity review in the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process, and was proposed following the conclusion of the IDN Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) Policy Development Process (PDP) and the request from the ccNSO to implement the string similarity review process in the Fast Track Process as recommended in the PDP. The ccNSO work has taken into account the experiences and reviews of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process as well as the Governmental Advisory Committee advice on the matter. Following extensive public consultations, the ccNSO Council adopted in April 2013 [PDF, 118 KB] the Final Report on the IDN ccNSO PDP [PDF, 376 KB]. In time, the proposed policy is expected to replace the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process.

The amendment to the FIP addresses multiple inputs from the community, in particular the call for additional transparency and consistency of the string similarity evaluation for IDN ccTLDs. Through the amendment, ICANN will implement a two-panel process for string similarity evaluation in the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process. The first string similarity review will remain a function of the DNS Stability Panel, as is currently implemented in the IDN ccTLD Fast Process, while adding an optional second review panel, called Extended Process Similarity Review Panel (EPSRP), which provides a second and final review of the string. The amended process will also allow all pending Fast Track IDN ccTLD string requests, including those whose string was considered not valid according to the current string similarity review, to request a final review of their string by the EPSRP.

The implementation of the two-panel string similarity review process is currently underway, including: finalizing the updates to the IDN ccTLD Fast Track FIP, defining the scientific-based evaluation methodology for the second panel as proposed, and constructing the panel and the procedure used to reevaluate eligible requests. Once completed, the methodology to be used by the second panel will be made public by ICANN.

The two-panel process for string similarity evaluation in the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process will be effective once the Extended Process Similarity Review Panel appointment is announced by ICANN. The community should take note that, until the appointment of this second panel is announced, requests under the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process will continue to be processed according to the version of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track FIP [PDF, 887 KB] published on 4 June 2012.

The IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process Implementation Plan [PDF, 498 KB] was approved by the ICANN Board at its meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea in October 2009. ICANN has conducted two annual reviews of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process between its implementation in October 2010 and July 2012. Summary and analyses of each public comment process are available here.


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Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."