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ICANN Hosts Discussion in Dubai to Explore Important Regional Internet Issues

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Dubai, UAE… The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today hosted a discussion in Dubai focused on a number of important issues that relate to the development of the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS) in the Middle East. Participants in the panel discussion included the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Etisalat and Domain Name sector companies ARI Registry Services, CentralNIC Group and AEServer.

One of the key issues discussed was the transition of the stewardship functions of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to a multistakeholder-led model. The IANA functions are critical for the global coordination of the DNS Root, IP addressing, and other Internet protocol resources.  ICANN currently manages the IANA functions under contract with the US government but in March 2014, the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intent to transition its stewardship role over the IANA Functions and related Root Zone Management. ICANN is facilitating the creation of a transition proposal with the community.

The growing number of business opportunities related to the Domain Name System and sector across the region was also a key topic for discussion. ICANN is working to raise awareness of the potential of the DNS to foster the development of new businesses in the Middle East, which will also deliver benefits to Internet users. Recently, ICANN announced the foundation of a regional DNS Entrepreneurship Center (DNS-EC) in Cairo, to serve communities in Africa and the Middle East. The Center aims to contribute to the evolution of the domain name sector in Africa and the Middle East by developing and providing expertise in the DNS technical, policy and entrepreneurial areas, as well as providing resources to support the implementation of initiatives and projects in this field.

The panel also discussed the unprecedented expansion of the DNS, launched nearly two years ago, which will result in the introduction of over 1,000 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). New gTLDs bring with them exciting possibilities for choice, innovation and competition. For example, for the first time, some new Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) will allow Internet users to interact with the Internet entirely in their native language – including Arabic. Some companies in the Middle East, have already embraced this, like .shabaka. Etisalat, is also another example, having applied for their own gTLD to enhance their brand presence and offer new ways of communicating with and servicing their customers.

Although details and a timeline are yet to be determined, ICANN is committed to opening a subsequent round of applications, Before doing so, it is important to capture the experience and lessons learned from the current round.  This will afford additional opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs, communities and Internet users in the Middle East to be a substantial part of this expansion. That is why awareness and understanding of the new gTLDs and their impact on business and brands is essential to grasp the opportunities at hand with this expansion.

Commenting on the panel discussion, Baher Esmat, VP, Stakeholder Engagement - Middle East, ICANN, said, "The Middle East market is still young when it comes to business and services pertaining to Internet domain names. Today's panel discussion has shed some light on recent developments in this area, and allowed us to provide them with a window to the opportunities the region has as well as the challenges it faces to boost its presence online. Today, more than ever, the world is more dependent on the Internet economy, and the future of the Middle East lies in the hands of its young population who knows how to harness technology innovations to drive economic growth."

Media Contacts
Luna Madi
EMEA, Communications Director
London, UK
Tel: +44 7780 947574
Email: luna.madi@icann.org

About ICANN
ICANN's mission is to ensure a stable, secure and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn't have one global Internet. ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers. ICANN doesn't control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn't deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet's naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. For more information please visit: www.icann.org.

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."