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Press Release: ICANN Holds First of Many Open Public Meetings

CAMBRIDGE, MA, Nov. 16, 1998 -- Over 200 members of the international Internet community gathered here yesterday to advise and question the initial board and management of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers at the first of many open public meetings to be held around the world. Others participated in the Cambridge event through a real-time webcast and real-time email comment.

"It was a useful meeting, drawing together a broad swath of internet stakeholders," said Jonathan Zittrain, Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, which facilitated the meeting. "For ICANN to succeed, it must be responsive to the diverse voices heard--no easy task, but one that the board has now shown it is willing to take up with energy and passion."

Extensive notes, video and background materials from the all-day meeting are posted at cyber.harvard.edu, the Berkman Center's web site. A full transcript will be available in about a week.

"This meeting had three broad purposes -- introducing the board to the community and vice versa, trying to foster more consensus and generating concrete proposals about governance issues such as membership and board structure and accountability, and educating the board about some of the issues we'll be facing," said interim ICANN chairman Esther Dyson. "I'd say it was successful on all three counts, with a lot of collaboration from all sides. We need to earn people's trust over time, and I think we took a few useful steps in that direction yesterday. People don't need to believe we'll do everything they want, but they do need to believe we'll be fair and transparent about what we do."

"I think we now have the basis on which to move forward with a transition agreement with the U.S. Government and to address the lengthy list of ICANN action items," said ICANN interim president Michael Roberts.

ICANN initial board member Gregory Crew, speaking for the board's advisory committee on membership, said that the input on these issues was particularly useful. The staff of the Berkman Center will help the committee in the formulation of formal membership options, which will be posted for public comment prior to a board vote, as called for by ICANN bylaws.

Separately, ICANN noted that the process of Supporting Organization recognition is moving forward, with criteria to be published by yearend, after which applications will be accepted and posted for public comment.

Following its Cambridge premiere, ICANN is taking its show on the road. Its second open public meeting will take place under the auspices of the European Community Private Sector Panel of Participants (EC-POP), hosted by the European Commission, in Brussels on November 25. Another meeting will take place in Asia in March, time and location to be announced shortly. Detailed information on these and all other public meeting will be posted at www.iana.org, the web site of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, ICANN's predecessor organization. ICANN's own www.icann.org will be operating soon.

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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."