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ICANN to Fast-Track IDNs for China and Russia
The Domain Name system (DNS) governing body ICANN has decided to fast-track the introduction of international domain names (IDNs) for certain countries it deems to be most in need of the new country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs). These include China, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia.
IDNs are top-level domains which contain non-Latin characters. Governments and Internet users alike have been calling for them to be introduced for many years, as many consider the Internet to be too centred on the North Atlantic region. Domain names containing all Latin characters can be difficult for those with non-Latin keyboards to visit, and it is thought that the new IDNs will help to reduce the "digital divide" by allowing more people access to the wealth of information available on the Web.
ICANN has said that certain countries are particularly in need of these IDNs, and has been testing them out for the last two weeks. ICANN has also set up an oversight agency (the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation, ccNSO) to make fast decisions about how the new ccTLDs will work. There are many decisions to be made, as various issues become apparent. For example, China uses two official scripts: traditional and simplified Chinese. ICANN will need to decide whether to allow the country two IDNs, or choose just one. Another problem is possible confusion of a domain name. The Russian domain name .ru, when written in Cyrillic characters, looks a lot like Paraguay’s .py.
ICANN predicts that it will take two to three years to completely iron out all the problems for every country, but it is also aware that countries such as China and Russia need their non-Latin domain names much faster than that. Hopefully the new oversight agency will be able to assist with fast decision-making. Some have speculated that this bold decision to fast-track the introduction of IDNs is a move from new ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush to establish his leadership and demonstrate ICANN’s continued commitment to the IDN project.