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Internationalized Domain Names: Workshop Announcement and Verisign Testbed

Workshop at ICANN Annual Meeting (13 November)

For several months, a working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been working to develop a standard specifying the requirements for internationalized access to domain names. This standard, when it is completed, will extend the operation of the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS) to character sets other than ASCII (the only character set currently supported) such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, the Scandanavian languages, and Spanish.

Several experimental testbeds are in operation or have been announced. These testbeds are testing a variety of approaches under consideration by the IETF working group, but are part of a common commitment to converge on whatever standard solution is ultimately adopted.

These developments, which could bring very significant changes to the way the DNS can be used, have attracted remarkably little public notice. To help explain the status of these efforts and their potential effects (both positive and negative) and to increase public awareness, ICANN will sponsor a workshop on internationalized domain names on Monday, 13 November 2000, in conjunction with its annual meeting in Marina del Rey, California. The meeting is planned to take place at 10:30 am in the Santa Monica Room of the Marina Beach Hotel. (For details on the ICANN annual meeting, please see <http://www.icann.org/mdr2000/>.)

The workshop will begin with a presentation on the status of the efforts of the IETF Internationalized Domain Names working group, followed by brief talks by several companies working toward implementation of internationalized domain names, including i-DNS.net, Verisign Global Registry Services, and the Multilingual Internet Names Consortium. After these presentations, there will be an open discussion and questions will be taken from the press and public.

Beginning of Registrations in Verisign Testbed (10 November)

The workshop will be held just three days after one of the testbeds begins taking registrations of names in the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean character sets. Verisign Global Registry Services has announced that it will begin taking registrations beginning at 00:00 UTC on Friday, 10 November 2000, of names consisting of the multilingual (Unicode) characters listed at <http://verisign-grs.com/multilingual/unicode.html>. (A graphic presentation of the listed characters can be found at <http://www.unicode.org/charts/>.) Approximately twenty ICANN-accredited registrars are expected to participate, offering registrations in competition with one another. The testbed plan is to have the registered names become operational after several weeks in which only registrations will be taken.


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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."