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Press Release: ICANN Asks Commerce Department to Begin DNS Transition

LOS ANGELES, November 6, 1998 -- The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today advised the Department of Commerce that it is ready to negotiate the transition agreement transferring Domain Name System administration from U.S. Government control. The transition is expected to last about a year, during which time the Initial Board of ICANN will create a permanent governance structure with members and member-elected directors.

ICANN is a private non-profit corporation, managed by an international board, that was expressly formed to take over the responsibility for duties now performed under government contract by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and other entities. The Domain Name System governs the routing of World Wide Web pages, electronic mail and other communications over the Internet.

The Commerce Department recognized ICANN as the appropriate entity with which to negotiate a transition agreement last month in a letter from J. Beckwith Burr, Acting Associate Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), but raised concerns about certain issues that ICANN has now responded to.

"The bylaws we adopted and submitted today were arrived at after careful evaluation of Ms. Burr's letter, extensive consultations with the Boston Working Group and the Open Root Server Confederation, the two groups specifically mentioned by the NTIA in its letter, and discussions with many other interested groups and individuals," said Esther Dyson, ICANN's Interim Chairman. "Mike Roberts, our Interim President, the other members of the board, and I all recognize, however, that such consultations must and will continue as we move through this long, unprecedented and intensely important process. We're all determined to get this right."

The board has already announced a series of open meetings throughout the world where members of the Internet community and others can speak directly to ICANN's interim board and management. The first of these is scheduled for November 14 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Representatives of the board will attend a meeting of the European Panel of Participants in Brussels on November 25. The board also hopes to hold an open meeting in Asia soon. Details on the Cambridge meeting are posted at www.iana.org.

The bylaws submitted today include modified or additional language designed to satisfy specific structural concerns noted by the government. These changes ensure the following:

    -- ICANN will be a membership organization, with Board members elected from four separate membership pools -- three specialized Supporting Organizations and an At Large membership;

    -- ICANN will be financially and otherwise accountable to those it serves;

    -- ICANN's decision-making will be fully transparent, with minutes of each ICANN Board, Supporting Organization or committee meeting to be publicly posted within 21 days following every meeting;

    -- The Initial Board will create a Conflicts of Interest policy covering all ICANN institutions, including the Supporting Organizations;

    -- ICANN's permanent governance structure will be globally representative; and

    -- ICANN will respect each nation's sovereign control over its individual Top Level Domain.

In the letter transmitting the bylaws as formally adopted by ICANN to the Commerce Department, Interim Chairman Dyson pointed out that these bylaws "will have to be changed to reflect the work of the Initial Board and to create the permanent governance structure of ICANN. We will carefully consider any and all suggestions for improvement as we move forward in this process. Nobody should operate under the illusion that any issue has been resolved 'once and for all.' Similarly, nobody should feel that issues that are important to them and have not been addressed to their satisfaction cannot be revisited. The process is just beginning."

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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""icann.org"" is not an IDN."