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Towards Multilingual Internet Access: Outreach through IDN Workshop

Idn workshop wu 800x497 03jun14

ICANN Board member, Kuo Wei Wu explaining IDN variant during Tokyo IDN workshop

Internet addresses are becoming truly multilingual. Over the past years, ICANN and community stakeholders have worked together to enable the support of Internationalized Domain Name (IDN), in an effort to have website addresses in native languages. As part of our active engagement efforts, the APAC and IDN team held a workshop in Japan to share and seek feedback on ICANN's work on the development of IDN.

Firstly, a quick word on the very interesting Japanese writing system. It comprises four scripts: hiragana, katakana, kanji (Chinese characters), and ASCII characters. The kanji (Chinese) characters are similar to that used in countries such as China, Singapore and Korea. Well, almost – the use of the Chinese characters in fact occasionally differs from country to country; and the very characters (pictographs) may also be written differently depending on where you are! It is therefore important for the relevant language communities to coordinate and discuss the handling of common and similar characters.

Raising awareness and getting into action in Japan

So on May 8, the team led by ICANN Board member Kuo Wei Wu, conducted a workshop in Tokyo. It was well attended with over 20 participants from the Japanese Internet community, including registries, registrars, businesses, academics, as well as government.

IDN workshop held at Japan Network Information Centre (JPNIC) office

IDN workshop held at Japan Network Information Centre (JPNIC) office

Lee Han Chuan from ICANN's APAC hub, and Wil Tan, a member of the Integration Panel, updated the Japanese community on ICANN's work with regard to IDN, and on the work of the Integration Panel. They talked about how the Japanese community could get involved and contribute to the development of IDN, such as the formation of a Japanese Generation Panel and providing inputs to the Integration Panel. This would help in determining which Japanese characters are allowed to be used as top-level domains and ensuring that the interests of the Japanese community are taken care of.

Even though the workshop was held immediately after the Japanese Golden Week holidays, the room was filled and the Japanese key stakeholders engaged in a lively discussion on the future of IDN in Japan. We're also very pleased that during the workshop, Japan Registry Services (JPRS) expressed its intention to assist with the formation of a Japanese Generation Panel, and agreed to lead local discussions on resolving IDN issues.

This is a significant step forward for the development of IDN within the Japanese community, and a boost to the coordination and integration required for IDN variants in the region. As next steps, the ICANN team will work closely with the Japanese community, including JPRS, on the formation of a Japanese Generation Panel, and to facilitate discussions with the Integration Panel.

Do keep a look out for our update during the London meeting, as we continue to coordinate and maintain the unique identifiers, so that we can continue to have one global, and multilingual, Internet.

Kelvin Wong is Head of Outreach and Public Responsibilities for ICANN's APAC region.


    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."