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ICANN and U.S. Department of Commerce Announce New Three-Year Agreement

Marina del Rey, California USA (17 September 2003) - The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the United States Department of Commerce (DoC) today announced that they agreed to extend their joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for three additional years until September 30, 2006.

"This new agreement clearly indicates the DoC's recognition that ICANN is the right organization to manage the Internet's naming and numbering systems," noted ICANN President and CEO, Dr. Paul Twomey. "We look forward to working with the DoC to complete, within this term, the transition toward privatization that began with the first MoU five years ago. We are pleased that we were able to reach agreement with the DoC on a term giving us three years to get the job done."

ICANN Chairman, Vint Cerf, added, "This agreement between ICANN and the Department of Commerce marks a major milestone in ICANN's history and the process of transition from the historical purely governmental oversight of the Internet to a public/private partnership. I am very grateful for the efforts of ICANN's CEO, Paul Twomey and his staff, working with the Department of Commerce, to complete this critical step on behalf of the ICANN and Internet communities."

The MoU highlights ICANN's responsibility to ensure the stability of the Internet and foster its globalization. Toward those ends, ICANN will: implement an objective process for selecting new Top Level Domains; implement an effective strategy for multi-lingual communications and international outreach; and develop a contingency plan, consistent with the international nature of the internet, to ensure continuity of operations in the event of a severe disruption of operations.

In November 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce entered into the first MoU with ICANN, recognizing it as the private sector, not-for-profit corporation that should assume a set of technical coordination and related policy development responsibilities for the Internet. Subsequently, there have been three additional one-year extensions of the MoU, recognizing ICANN's significant progress towards achieving the tasks necessary to transition oversight of the naming and numbering system to a public/private partnership.


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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."