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IDN Variant TLDs

What's New in the IDN Variant Program?

What is the IDN Variant TLD Program?

Join Us

History of the Program

News Archive


What are IDN Variant TLDs?

Internationalized Domain Names, or IDNs, use character sets such as Chinese, Arabic, Cyrillic or any other characters outside US-ASCII. An IDN variant TLD can be defined as one that may look like or be considered exchangeable with another TLD by a user of the related writing system.

What's New in the IDN Variant TLD Program?

24 September 2014: Chinese Community Steps Forward for Chinese TLDs - Forms Generation Panel for Root Zone Label Generation Ruleset (LGR)
Learn more: Chinese Script Generation Panel LGR Project Workspace.

20 June 2014: Generation Panel formation quick guide kit [PDF, 335 KB]
Information on forming or participating in LGR Panels.

23 April 2014: Check-out the latest project announcement: Update on Root Zone LGR Generation Panel Formation

3 March 2014: MSR Version 1 (MSR-1) Available for Public Comment
The Maximal Starting Repertoire is the first deliverable under the LGR Procedure [PDF, 772 KB]. We are seeking feedback from community members working on Internationalized Domain Names (IDN ccTLD and new gTLD applicants) and experts working on the development of Label Generation Rules, Comment now

5 March 2014: New Version of Internet Draft for LGR Rules Toolset Project (P1) Published
In the context of the Label Generation Ruleset Tool Project (P1), ICANN staff has published a new version of the Internet Draft scoped to develop the specification to represent the IDN LGR.Send feedback to vip@icann.org

11 July 2013: ICANN Calls for Generation Panels to Develop Root Zone Label Generation Rules
A successful IDN Root Zone LGR will include label generation rules for many of the world's scripts. These rules must be established by Generation Panels in accordance with the LGR Procedure [PDF, 772 KB]. ICANN is focusing on panel formation for the following scripts: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Georgian, Greek, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Sinhala, Tamil, Telugu and Thai. For further information on how to form a Generation Panel or to express individual or group statements of interest for the establishment of a Generation Panel, please refer to the Call and Learn how to setup and run a Generation Panel [PDF, 441 KB]

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What is the IDN Variant TLD Program?

To support IDN variants in the root zone, the ICANN community, at the direction of the Board, undertook several projects to study and make recommendations on their viability, sustainability and delegation. Conducted in four phases spanning three years, these projects form the basis of an implementation plan that will be considered by ICANN's Board of Directors.

We have initiated the fourth and last phase of the IDN Variant TLD Program, consisting of the following implementation projects, as initially planned in the IDN Variant TLD Program Plan [PDF, 576 KB]:

Implementation of the Label Generation Rules for IDNA Labels for the Root Zone (LGR Procedure) (P2.2)

The implementation of the LGR Procedure was initiated in June 2013 with the publication of the Call for Subject Matter Experts for the IDN Root Zone LGR Integration Panel and Advisors to All Panels, followed by the seating of the Integration Panel in September 2013 and the publication for public comment of the first deliverable under the LGR Procedure, the Maximal Starting Repertoire Version 1.

In addition, successful development of the IDN Root Zone LGR depends on having Generation Panels for each script represented in the Root Zone, subject to the Call for Generation Panels to Develop Root Zone Label Generation Rules, published in July 2013. Generation Panels are community panels that will establish the rules that define, for a given script, which code points are permitted for use in U-Labels in the Root Zone, which labels are variants of each other and, where variants exist, whether such variant labels are deemed allocatable for the Root Zone.

Identification of updates to ICANN's Programs (P7)

This work includes the identification of updates needed to be implemented in ICANN processes and systems to incorporate the IDN Label Generation Rules for the Root Zone in the applications evaluation and processing steps, as well as updates to impacted processes with regards to User Experience Study recommendations. Per the ICANN Board resolution adopted in Beijing, the IDN Variant TLD Program team has invited Sponsoring Organizations and Advisory Committees to provide input and advice, on the best approach to implement the recommendations from the study. By November 2013, ICANN has received responses from ALAC [PDF, 357 KB], SSAC [PDF, 706 KB] and GNSO [PDF, 408 KB]. Program team is working on incorporating received inputs from the community.

Updates to ICANN's Operations (P8)

Following the completion of Project 7, subsequent steps will focus on updating ICANN processes and systems to implement the changes required to support IDN variant TLDs and to ensure a secure and stable delegation of IDN variant TLDs.

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Join Us

For more information on the IDN Variant TLD Program, please visit the ICANN Community Wiki Program Workspace..

For more information on the Root Zone LGR Project, please visit the ICANN Community Wiki Project Workspace.

Subscribe to the vip@icann.org public mailing list for discussions on issues related to the IDN Variant TLDs Program by filling out the form available at: https://mm.icann.org/mailman/listinfo/vip

Contact ICANN staff at idntlds@icann.org email address for general matters related to the program, to submit Generation Panel statement of interests, work reports, updates, etc.

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History of the Program

Learn about the development of the IDN Variant TLD Program, including strategy, implementation and milestones achieved.

Phase 1: Case studies

ICANN conducted case studies in Arabic, Chinese (Han script), Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, and Latin scripts, creating a commonly understood glossary of terms and identifying common challenges of linguistic accuracy, technical feasibility, and more.

Please visit the links below to read the individual reports:

Phase 2: Integrated Issues Report

Experts from each case study team collaborated on an Integrated Issues Report, summarizing issues, outlining areas for further study and making recommendations for potential solutions.

Please visit the link below to read the final Integrated Issues Report:

Phase 3: IDN Variant TLD Program

Following the recommendations identified within the Integrated Issues Report, the project team created a Program Plan for the next steps. Phase 3 was initially comprised of the three projects described below. Two of these projects (P2.1 and P6) were finalized on 21 March 2013 with the publication of corresponding final reports. These milestone publications concluded the third (out of four) phase of the Program while Project 1 continues its work during phase 4 to further develop the specifications for the Label Generation Ruleset Tool.

Phase 3 of the Program focused ICANN and community resources on the creation and maintenance of a label generation ruleset process for the root, which is on the critical path to a variant management process for the root zone. A basic assumption is that no variant TLDs can actually be implemented until the necessary community work on the code point repertoire and label generation rules for the root have been finalized.

Label Generation Ruleset Tool Project (P1)

The first project's scope is to develop a specification to represent the IDN LGR and to perform the actions that Registries require to process IDN Variants. ICANN staff leads this project and published, through the IETF technical standard body, a corresponding Internet Draft to gather input from interested parties: http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-davies-idntables. Input should be sent to vip@icann.org.

Procedure to Develop and Maintain the Label Generation Rules for the DNS Root Zone in Respect of IDNA Labels Project (P2.1)

The second project focuses on the development of the process for the creation and maintenance of the LGR. The Project Team consists of a number of consultant experts recruited by ICANN, supported by a team of Internet community experts from across the globe representing multiple scripts and languages. Following two face-to-face sessions, conference and mailing work discussions and numerous community input processes, the team produced the final procedure document entitled LGR Procedure [PDF, 790 KB].

Examining the User Experience Implications of Active Variant TLDs Project (P6)

The third project is a study to understand the issues that end-users, software developers and application developers might face when dealing with IDN Variant TLDs. The team sought to establish a dialog with the community to refine draft proposed principles, impacts and recommendations through numerous public sessions, public webinar and public comment processes. Incorporating inputs received from the community, ICANN staff and expert consultants produced the report entitled Examining the User Experience Implications of Active Variant TLDs (User Experience Study) [PDF, 507 KB]. The output of this project will inform the later project work.

Phase 4: IDN Variant TLD Program

After the completion of Projects 2.1 and 6 on 21 March 2013, the IDN Variant team conducted various public sessions during ICANN meetings to explain the LGR Procedure and the results from the User Experience Study.

On 11 April 2013 the Board adopted a resolution directing staff to implement the LGR Procedure [PDF, 772 KB]. The Board also invited interested Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees to provide ICANN staff with any input and guidance they may have to be factored into implementation of the recommendations from the User Experience Study.

As initially indicated by the 25 September 2010 Board resolution, IDN variant TLDs delegation requires that appropriate variant management solutions be developed and implemented. Therefore IDN Variant TLDs cannot be delegated unless Phase 4 work has been finalized and the first version of the root LGR has been published. ICANN is working on accelerating the last phase of the Program in order to provide, as quickly as possible, appropriate solutions to IDN Variant TLDs delegation without compromising the security and stability of the DNS. Per the output of the IDN Root LGR repertoire, it is important to note that there is no certainty that all applied-for IDN Variant TLDs will be delegated.

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News Archive

13 February 2014: Generation Panel for Arabic Script Root Zone Label Generation Rules Seated
Following ICANN's approval of Arabic Script Generation Panel composition and work plan, the Panel has started its work on the Label Generation Rules. Learn more: Arabic Script Generation Panel LGR Project Workspace

20 November 2013: Root Zone LGR Project Workspace Available on ICANN Community Wiki
This workspace provides information on the Root Zone LGR Procedure, set up guidelines for the Integration and Generation Panels, work status updates, reports, panel memberships, contact information, etc. Visit the LGR Project Workspace

18 February 2014: ICANN has expanded the LGR Pool of Advisors to aid the Integration Panel in its deliberations and to provide subject matter expertise to Generation Panels, where requested. The following list of subject matter experts represents currently available LGR Expert Advisors to all Panels: Michael Everson – Linguistic Expert, Thomas Milo – Arabic Script Technology Expert, Paul Hoffman –DNS and IDNA Expert.

23 January 2014: The ICANN Board requested interested Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees to provide any input and guidance they may have to be factored into implementation of the Recommendations from the Report on User Experience Implications of Active Variant TLDs [PDF, 1.38 MB] by 1 July 2013. Following the above-mentioned resolution, IDN Variant TLD Program staff has addressed letters of request for input and guidance to the GAC, GNSO, ccNSO, ALAC, SSAC and RSSAC. By November 2013, ICANN has received responses from ALAC [PDF, 357 KB], SSAC [PDF, 706 KB] and GNSO [PDF, 408 KB]. Program team is working on incorporating received inputs from the community.

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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."