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ICANN Clears the Way for Two-character Second-level Domain Names

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Currently, Specification 5 of the base new gTLD Registry Agreement (RA) requires registry operators to reserve all two-character ASCII labels at the second-level. The RA also states that registry operators can request permission from ICANN to release these labels.

Earlier this year, many new gTLD registry operators requested permission from ICANN to release some, or all, of the reserved two-character labels. ICANN has processed these requests under the Registry Services Evaluation Policy (RSEP).

To date, ICANN has processed over 60 RSEP requests supporting the release of a variety of two-character labels for over 200 new gTLDs. Registry Agreement amendments permitting the requested releases were proposed and posted for Public Comment. ICANN batched these amendments for a combined total of five Public Comment periods.

The five Public Comment periods gave governments, trademark owners, registries, country-code operators, the technical community, and others the opportunity to comment on the proposed Registry Agreement amendments that would allow the release of two-character labels. After reviewing the summary and analysis of the first batch of Public Comments, the ICANN Board passed Resolution 2014.10.16.14 on 16 October 2014 directing ICANN staff to "develop and implement an efficient procedure for the release of two-character domains currently required to be reserved in the New gTLD Registry Agreement," while taking into consideration advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) as published in the "Los Angeles Communiqué" [PDF, 127 KB].

Looking Forward

Following the Board Resolution, ICANN has been working to develop a more efficient procedure enabling the release of two-character labels for new gTLDs, and I'm happy to say we're almost there.

We plan to release an authorization process by 1 December that no longer requires Registry operators to reserve number/letter (2a), letter/number (a2), or number/number (22) labels at the second-level. This category of two-character labels has been determined not to raise significant security, stability and competition concerns and has received no objections from governments, country-code managers, members of the technical community, or rights holders.

The remaining two-character ASCII labels, or letter/letter labels, will also be eligible for consideration for "authorization" to be released.  The GAC's discussion on two-character labels focused on letter/letter (aa) two-character labels. The GAC stated "that the public comment period is an important transparency mechanism" and that relevant governments should be alerted when such requests arise. Accordingly ICANN has developed a Request for Authorization to Release process for registries who want to release letter/letter labels from reservation. The process consists of the following:

  1. Registry operator submits a request to ICANN to release one or more letter/letter two-character labels.
  2. ICANN reviews the request, and posts it for comment for 30 days.
  3. ICANN notifies the GAC of the request and the comment period.
  4. If there are no relevant and reasoned objections to the request, ICANN will authorize the requested letter/letter two-character labels to be released.

The 30-day posting period provides the transparency valued by the GAC. Once a request is posted, governments will be provided with the opportunity to comment on registry requests.

Under the new process, registries with RSEP requests that have completed the RSEP process and whose proposed RA amendment to release the requested two-character SLDs from reservation have undergone Public Comment will receive an authorization from ICANN by 1 December to release the requested SLDs from reservation. These requests have already been posted for an extended period (up to six months) while the community discussed and considered the issues raised by the requests, and they have each been subject to a 42-day public comment period. There were no comments opposing the proposed amendments that would allow registries to release the requested two-character SLDs from reservation.

Those registries that have not had a proposed Registry Agreement amendment to release from reservation the requested two-character SLDs undergo Public Comment will be asked to use the new process outlined above.

It is important for the community and registries to remember, that all authorizations to release two-character SLDs from reservation will continue to be subject to all terms of the Registry Agreement, including Rights Protection Mechanisms and the Name Collision Framework.

We are pleased to launch this new process that allows for more efficient processing of applicable requests to release certain two-character SLDs from reservation, while respecting the requests of the GAC and other community members. We look forward to continuing to solicit feedback from various members of the community while improving efficiencies for contracted parties.


    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."