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Towards a Multilingual Internet - Recent Discussions in Guangzhou

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Chinese domain names have always been popular in China. Owing to supportive policies, as well as the rapid mobile Internet penetration in China, corporations and individuals are increasingly familiar with and using more Chinese domain names.

To my knowledge, international search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo already support Chinese domain name search. Google's and Microsoft's email systems have also started to support non-English email addresses otherwise known as Email Address Internationalization (EAI).

Unfortunately, search engines in China are still underperforming in the search and display of Chinese domain names. With the exception of the experimental email environment set up by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) and Chinese email service provider Coremail, most Chinese email service providers have yet to introduce services to allow Chinese email addresses to be used.

Although we are able to type Chinese characters using 'pinyin' input method* on our keyboards, it is still important for us to promote the acceptance of domain names and email addresses in Chinese characters.

On the back of this, I attended an EAI seminar in Guangzhou that was organized by the Universal Acceptance Steering Group** (UASG) and hosted by Coremail on 11-12 January 2018. Global email providers, technical experts from the Chinese government, as well as Chinese registries and registrars, gathered to share their experiences and challenges in the deployment and promotion of EAI.

What is particularly noteworthy was our visit to Tencent (one of China's top technology giant) together with the Information and Communications Administration from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). We had an open, friendly exchange on the importance of EAI for the Chinese community and how QQ (Tencent's instant messaging software) mailboxes can better support EAI. In addition, Microsoft shared its work plan on making all of its email systems, such as Office365, Hotmail, and Outlook, support EAI.

In summary, our Chinese community members who attended the seminar felt it was a meaningful opportunity for communication and exchange. They welcome more cooperation with the UASG in 2018 to push forward the development of domain names and email addresses in Chinese.

Indeed, there are forthcoming events in China which could provide useful venues for such sharing. I will provide more updates in the near future.


*Pinyin input method is based on the pronunciation of Mandarin and is the standard Romanization system for Chinese, using Latin alphabets to denote the Chinese character.

**The UASG was set up in 2015 by members of the Internet community, with support from ICANN. Its primary mission is to help software developers and website owners understand how to update their systems to keep pace with an evolving Domain Name System (DNS). Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) and EAI are part of its focus, but similar issues exist for new ASCII top-level domains too. IDNs refer to domain names that contain Chinese, Cyrillic, Arabic, and other non-English characters; EAI refers email addresses that contain non-English characters in either the domain name or the mailbox name. The deployment and promotion of IDN and EAI technologies will help pave the way towards a multilingual Internet.


    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."