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ICANN Board Stays on Course for Launch of New gTLD Program

In closing ICANN's 37th international meeting in Nairobi, ICANN's Board chose to continue with the current implementation plans leading to launch of the New gTLD Program, rather than pursuing a proposal to institute a system of "Expressions of Interest" (EOI), a pre-registration process for those wishing to apply for a new generic top-level domain (gTLD).

In its resolution, the Board noted that the potential benefits of proceeding with an EOI process would be outweighed by the costs of potential delay to the New gTLD Program. Although there are a limited number of issues still outstanding, synchronizing the processes for issue resolution with the proposed EOI step and the launch of the New gTLD Program would add complexity and potentially create an extended timeline. After consideration, the Board determined that the most efficient path was to focus staff resources on resolving the remaining issues.

"We thought there need not be added another level to the approval process of new gTLDs," stated Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN's Chairman of the Board. "Many people have been waiting a very long time for program implementation, and we are now so close to launching the new gTLD process that we simply thought it better to move ahead as quickly as possible without adding the EOI element."

The EOI/pre-registration proposal was the subject of extensive discussion among the Internet community, during two public comment periods (11 Dec 2009 to Jan 11 2009 and 17 of Dec 2009 to 26 January 2010), and public discussions during the ICANN meeting in Nairobi this week.

ICANN will continue to concentrate effort on the resolution of remaining issues and the development of operational resources for launch of the program. An expected near-final draft of the Applicant Guidebook for the program is expected to be published for comment prior to the next ICANN Meeting, to be held in Brussels ( 20-25 Jun 2010).

ICANN will continue to reach out to all global regions, to enhance awareness of developments concerning the introduction of new gTLDs. An introductory webinar on 17 March will provide a point of entry for those new to the topic. Interested participants should register at http://www.icann.org/en/learning/webinars.htm. This is the first of a series of webinars planned for the program.

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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."