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A Review of the Middle East DNS Forum: Five Years and Counting

When the Middle East DNS Forum reached its five-year milestone, a community survey was sent to previous participants, as well as the broader Middle East community, on 23 May 2018. The survey is aimed at assessing whether the forum has succeeded in addressing the concerns laid out by the ICANN's regional strategy, which was published back in 2013. These concerns included the lack of an ecosystem that would foster the development of a domain industry; the need for raising awareness around opportunities created by a vibrant domain name marketplace; and the importance of building partnerships among relevant stakeholders to develop local expertise in different areas related to the Domain Name System (DNS).

Survey Results

Community Assessment Middle East DNS Forum

The responses received were constructive and will be used to help us build on the efforts of the past five years. The majority of survey participants were positive about the forum's:

  • Effectiveness
  • Relevance of topics
  • Speaker quality
  • Functionality as a platform for discussion and engagement
  • Influence in raising awareness about ICANN and supporting the domain industry in the Middle East

You can view a summary of the survey results here [PDF, 154 KB].

The one aspect that most participants were neutral or less positive about was the number of forum attendees, which was thought to be lower than expected.

Overall, the survey results indicated that we have a good understanding of both the community's and regional needs. One of the main questions in the survey was whether the forum should continue as it currently exists, with changes, or be replaced by other activities. While none of the respondents suggested replacement the forum, about 40% said it should continue as it currently stands, and nearly 60% suggested improving it.

For instance, one of the suggestions raised was the idea to organize the forum in conjunction with other similar events in the region, in order to maximize attendance and added value. We are happy to confirm that since last year, we've been seeking opportunities to co-exist with other events, which will maximize the forum's added value for participants. We are currently in discussions with a few of our partners in the Internet technical community and other organizers of regional events to find the right formula that will work for all involved parties.

Another suggestion was to increase efforts in promoting remote participation in all of our pre-event communication regarding the forum. On average, about 10% of the participation in previous forums came from remote participants. This has historically been promoted through our announcements, emails, both the ICANN and the forum's dedicated website, and social media. However, there is always room for improvement. The responses to the survey were not specific as to which platforms that should be used to further promote remote participation, but we are happy to open a dialogue with the community about the best path forward.

Another recommendation was to improve the planning process of the forum. This includes planning further in advance in selecting the local host and initiating the event agenda with the program committee. These are some simple steps we can take to give us ample time to promote the event and attract both regular and new stakeholders.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who responded to the survey. Your feedback and proposed improvements are already being taken into consideration for the 2019 meeting.

A Quick Background

The Middle East DNS Forum was created to help support the regional domain name industry. This was a direct outcome from the first three-year ICANN regional engagement strategy, which was released by the regional community in 2013. The forum's is designed to bring together interested parties from registries and registrars, as well as industry experts, to share best practices and discuss recent developments in the field. The forum is also aimed at increasing regional stakeholders' knowledge of the domain name system's different aspects. Since its inception in 2014, the Middle East DNS Forum has been held in the UAE (2014), Jordan (2015), Tunisia (2016), Egypt (2017), and Turkey (2018).


    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"""" is not an IDN."