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Looking backwards and forwards at Whois

What’s wrong with Whois? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps a lot. We lack the data to answer with certainty.

The Whois service has drawn a lot of thought and debate from the ICANN community for ten years. In fact, the global look-up service has been the subject of so many points of view and so many policy suggestions that last May, the GNSO Council tasked the Policy Staff with rounding up all the suggestions that have been made thus far.

The report that the GNSO requested was published at the end of March. And it turns out to have a great side-effect. If you haven’t been tracking the Whois debates closely, this report rehearses the highlights of past discussions, concisely. It reminds me of turning on my favorite television drama and getting that one-minute reminder of where the story left off: “Previously on Mad Men…”

So, don’t be daunted by the title, “Whois Requirements Inventory.” Lead author Steve Sheng did a terrific job of crafting a summary that serves novices and veterans alike.

The GNSO also asked that the report list requirements that could be needed soon, in a world of countless new TLDs and internationalized domain names. So, the report not only surveys the past; it also suggests what Whois needs for the future.

If you have a point of view on Whois — or would like enough context to form one — the report is well worth your time. For further context, and a link to the report itself, check out the audio interview with Steve Sheng on the E-Learning page’s Audio Briefings section:

If you listen to the interview and/or read the report, you might wish you could talk with Steve directly about the issues. Your chance to ask questions and add further suggestions about Whois arrives on 20 April and 4 May, as Steve leads live webinars about Whois requirements. For more details, refer to this webinar announcement.

And if that isn’t enough Whois information to satisfy anybody, I don’t know Whatis.


    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."