Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Singaporean’s 10-year battle for IDNs wages on

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (“ICANN”) continuing efforts to infinitely expand the number of Generic Top Level Domains (“gTLDs”) beyond the current 21 which include .com, .net. and .org, have received mixed reviews. While cities and big brands are expected to be among the first applicants (think .newyork, .tokyo, .apple and .sony), it is without any doubt that cybersquatters will also be near, if not at, the head of the line.

Version 2 of the New gTLD Draft Applicant Guidebook was just released on 31 May 2009. In it contains the public's comments on various issues surrounding the new gTLDs, including trade marks, geographical names and Internationalised Domain Names ("IDNs").

One particular name in the Guidebook - James Seng - caught my eye. Seng, a Singaporean, has been lobbying for IDNs, particularly "CJK" (Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters) in an Anglo-centric Internet for the last 10 years. His dream of a truly international Internet echoes the Internet Society's slogan of yore : The Internet is for Everyone.

Sadly, as Seng laments, not much progress has been made. The latest Guidebook imposes a 3-character minimum for IDNs, which is perfectly sensible for English words (.boy, .car) [Edit : not for famous 2-letter brands like .ge, .lv and .ax though], but simply does not fit the nature of CJK where meaningful words may be formed by less than 3 characters. In his blog, Seng reminds ICANN that in 2008, Asia contributed to the largest growth of domain names (excluding .com). He ends the entry with an earnest plea : If ICANN is sincere about making gTLD successful, I beg you, please do not fumble in Asia.

Version 3 of the Guidebook is set to be released in end of June 2009 for yet another round of public comment. The fate of IDNs remains to be seen.

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