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Will there really be a new Russian Internet?

There have been some reports in the past few days about possible “division” of the Internet in Russia, tied in with speculation that the forthcoming Cyrillic domain names will be used to grant the Russian government more control over its citizens. The source of this speculation appears to be an article published in UK newspaper The Guardian. That article was then reproduced in a number of Russian news articles, most of them quoting a direct translation published by SecurityLab.

There was another article, also published by several Russian sources and based on a press-conference given by the Russian country-code top-level domain administration (.ru ccTLDA). Right now ICANN is running tests on TLDs, including one in Russian – http://пример.испытание – and the article made clear that the desire of the Russian Internet community would be, if the tests are successful, to have a new IDN – .РФ (from Russian Federation, in Cyrillic).

Nice looking online

The main advantage of the new Cyrillic TLDs is the possibility for people who use only Russian (or, for that sake, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Ukrainian, etc.) to have access to the Internet. Another feature of the new TLD is the possibility to register a “nice looking” name. Currently it is not that easy to register a short name in the Russian .ru zone, as all names are already taken – the number of registered domains have gone above one million.

The expectations are that the Cyrillic domains in the Russian domain space will be about 20 percent of the total number. Or, in other words, neither the Russian government, nor the Russian Internet community is trying to isolate Russia from the Internet, quite the contrary – the Cyrillic TLDs will give more opportunities of people from Russia, but also from all over the world, to have easier access to the content in Russian language. The same is true for all the other TLDs in different languages being tested right now. The aim of the ICANN process is to integrate, not fragment, as some of the news articles appear to suggest.

As the regional manager that covers Russia for ICANN, I know many of the Russian experts, specialists, businessmen in this area. That knowledge of the people at the forefront of this technology, plus the fact that there is a global Russian policy towards promoting the Russian language and culture, leads me to believe that the reports of a new Russian Internet that have appeared in the Western media are unlikely to prove to be anything more than an eye-catching headline.


    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."