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IDN Guideline Revision Update

The members of the TLD registries working group for the revision of the IDN Guidelines wish to express their gratitude to all of the individuals and organizations who submitted comments to the public forum on the draft text. We similarly acknowledge the advice provided via other channels, and are especially appreciative of the support given in response to our requests for expert assistance. It will take us some time to act upon all of this material in the detail that it deserves. We have already begun that process, but it is not yet possible to foresee the full extent to which this wide-ranging input will be reflected in the final text.

The working group was formed to revise the IDN Guidelines that had been in effect since June 2003. One of the first matters considered was whether to modify the existing text incrementally, or to replace it with a completely new document. Given the acute nature of some IDN concerns, we decided to produce a revised version of the Guidelines retaining their initial format as rapidly as possible, and then initiate the preparation of a more robust instrument with which to replace them altogether.

Similar considerations are reflected in comments submitted about the resulting draft. Although opinions differ on the extent to which the time devoted to the incremental revision was well spent, that effort has already been made and further energy has been contributed by those who have suggested alternate wording for key segments of the draft. The working group is therefore going to conclude the first phase of its action with a final modification to the current draft, incorporating those components of the submitted commentary that were intended to be utilized in that manner and which we feel to be consistent with the scope and disposition of the document. In parallel, the working group will begin to reframe the Guidelines completely in a manner appropriate for further development as a Best Current Practices (BCP) document, for which formal IETF status will be sought.

It is not yet possible to set a timetable for the appearance of an initial version of the successor document. As comments on the present draft indicate, there are important issues relevant to IDN policy that it does not cover. Some of this criticism addresses issues that are outside the working group's mandate. However, one of the reasons why the incremental revision of the Guidelines is being taken to a rapid and formal conclusion is to provide a freer basis for working group participation in the discussion of the additional issues. One of the most pressing such concerns is preparation for the appearance of IDN on the top-level of the DNS.

When the working group has dealt with all of the submitted commentary, we will provide a point-by-point summary, including our response to each recommendation. To allow for additional feedback during the course of the actions described here, the forum for public commentary has been opened at: http://forum.icann.org/lists/idn-guidelines/.

Please note, however, that the substantive detail of the incremental revision to the guidelines will be based on the commentary that has already been received. The new forum is appropriate to the consideration of ancillary issues, including those relevant to the successor document that will be placed on a BCP track.

The original announcement of the draft revised guidelines is 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."