Internet Governance Open Internet Standards

Making Progress on Internationalized Domain Names

By Sally Wentworth, Vice President, Global Policy Development, Internet Society and Nigel Hickson, Vice President, IGO Engagement, ICANN

This week, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, South Korea revisited the Role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names, which is formally known as ITU Resolution 133 (Guadalajara, 2010). The discussion primarily focused on how to update Resolution 133 and evaluate the progress made since 2010.

This examination provides us with a timely opportunity to share data about the considerable progress made to deploy Internationalized Domain Names in the Domain Name System (DNS) root zone file.

Beginning of 2010, most top-level domain names were limited to the 128 American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), which is a character-encoding method. This meant that domain names consisting exclusively of non-Latin characters could not generally be used to navigate the Internet. However, at the same time, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and others were hard at work creating a robust, globally implementable Internationalized Domain Names in Applications (IDNA) standard that would enable billions of new users to access the Internet in their local language script. In 2008, the IETF released a revised version of the IDNA standard. Russ Housley, Chairman of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and former Chairman of IETF, wrote about the IETF IDNA standards process here.

Once the IDNA standard was released, the world’s focus turned to deployment and use of IDNs. So, what has been achieved since then?

This simple answer is, quite a lot!

  • Today, 43 IDN country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) and 35 IDN generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are listed in the root.
  • Through ICANN’s new gTLD program, an additional 50 or more names are expected to be delegated in the next 12 months.
  • This growth includes over 800, 000 Cyrillic script IDNs registered under рф; 750,000 Han script IDNs under 中国/中國, and 台湾/台灣 and 12,000 under Arabic top-level domains (TLDs). More examples can be found in the World Report on Internationalized Domain Names 2014 (PDF)
  • ICANN is also working hard to seek participation from the community in so-called Generation Panels for each script represented in the Root Zone. Generation Panels still need to be formed for many scripts including: Cyrillic, Greek, Gujarati, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Sinhala, Tamil, Thai and others.

But what do these improvements mean in practice? By December 2013, there were over 6 million IDN domain names; which represents over 2% of the total number of domain names. This translates into a 215% growth in the last 5 years, an impressive increase in a short period of time.

While these numbers represent significant progress, there is still more work to be done to ensure people around the world can access the Internet in their local script. As the Internet continues to grow and more local content is created, the use of IDNs will also grow. It is crucially important users have choices in their language and we are committed to making that a reality.

Help set the standards for script in your language by volunteering to establish and participate in a generation panel now. Email ICANN at to learn more.

[Edited for minor technical clarifications on Nov 4th, 2014]

Internet Governance Open Internet Standards

TWO-FOUR-SIX-EIGHT – Who Do We Appreciate? IANA!

On Friday, 14 March 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intention to transition the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community. As expected, the announcement has sent adrenaline coursing through the veins of Internet governance experts and government policy people the world over. I’d argue, however, that it is an important point for the Internet’s technical experts to sit up and take notice, as well: the fact that you are probably saying “what problem does this solve?” is a testimony to how much works well today, and we want to make sure it continues to work well in any future arrangements.

First of all — do you remember where the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority started? Vint Cerf wrote, in RFC2468 (two-four-six-eight):

“Out of the chaos of new ideas for communication, the experiments, the
tentative designs, and crucible of testing, there emerged a
cornucopia of networks. Beginning with the ARPANET, an endless
stream of networks evolved, and ultimately were interlinked to become
the Internet. Someone had to keep track of all the protocols, the
identifiers, networks and addresses and ultimately the names of all
the things in the networked universe. And someone had to keep track
of all the information that erupted with volcanic force from the
intensity of the debates and discussions and endless invention that
has continued unabated for 30 years. That someone was Jonathan B.
Postel, our Internet Assigned Numbers Authority[…] “

Forty-odd years later, the task that one person took on has evolved into a multi-organizational, global, community-driven effort, based on open and transparent processes to develop policy, provide oversight, and implement the processes for managing shared Internet resources.

It’s a pretty big elephant, and your view of the IANA space depends very much on where you touch it.

If you’re a network operator, you know you get your IP addresses (IPv6, right? ;-)) from your Regional Internet Registry (RIR). You know there are processes and allocation and assignment policies that shape what constitutes a reasonable request and what isn’t allowed. Those policies are developed in open, transparent policy processes in the five RIRs around the globe. All of that is actually part of the bigger picture of the IANA-as-global-coordinated-effort.

For a reliable, global Domain Name System you need to be confident in the continued integrity and accessibility of the DNS, from its root downwards. Today, it is a reasonable expectation that any needed and authorized updates for Top Level Domains (generic or country code) are made in the root zone and propagated to the root servers uniformly and within reasonable delay.

And, finally – if you implement or otherwise use Internet standards, you rely on the work of the Internet Engineering Task Force and the rest of its protocol parameter registries. Every Internet protocol that requires a list of values (set by IETF actions, or chosen by protocol implementers) requires a registry to maintain the list. That’s everything from assigned port numbers for individual protocols to agreed-upon labels for services. While the contents of those registries are generally less contentious than some names or numbering issues, they are a critical part of making sure that Internet standards can be implemented and used interoperably, and thus imperative to the IETF’s continued efforts. For more details on how that all works, see Thomas Narten’s recent article in the IETF Journal

With so much that is working well now, it’s easy enough to get lost in the focus of news media. But, the bottom line is that this is not about a government letting go of the Internet, as headlines would have you believe – rather, it’s about removing the footnote on the second page of the “Shared Internet Resources” diagram that explains that some IANA functions are carried out under contract assigned by the US Government. The important thing now is to ensure that whatever replaces that footnote is consistent with the principles that have allowed the Internet to flourish to date, and continues to provide the secure and stable functioning we enjoy today.

As noted in RFC2468, we appreciated IANA-the-person. I hope this description helps solidify your appreciation for IANA-in-the-large, and that you care about the outcome of this transition process. As we’ve said before, the Internet requires collaboration and collective stewardship of shared resources.

So, get involved! The multistakeholder model of the IETF, ICANN, the RIRs, and other Internet organizations requires individual participation at all levels in open, transparent processes. Attend meetings (either in person or remotely), join and participate in relevant mailing list discussions, and stay informed about what is happening in the industry. It is only with *your* participation that the future of the Internet will remain secure.

P.S.: Since I mentioned Jon Postel, let me put a plug in for the Jonathan B. Postel Service award – nominations open until 7 May 2014!


NBCUniversal and Comcast Sign Strategic Sponsorship Agreement for Internet Society and Internet Engineering Task Force

By Leslie Daigle, Internet Society Chief Internet Technology Officer

I am very pleased to share the news that NBCUniversal and Comcast have announced today a new strategic sponsorship agreement, including a commitment to jointly host three Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meetings over the next nine years. In addition, the companies have agreed to maintain a platinum-level organizational sponsorship, the highest level of support available, for the next nine years as well. The agreement also gives the companies a framework for providing additional sponsorship for Internet Society and IETF activities as the organizations and relationships evolve over that time.

The IETF is the Internet’s premier technical standards body, responsible for developing the standards that are foundational to the global Internet. These include email, instant messaging, VoIP, and IPv6, as well as standards related to the next steps of the Internet’s evolution such as the Internet of Things, WebRTC and improved security protocols. The Internet Society is proud to be the organizational home of the IETF.

This sponsorship agreement is yet another example of a long history of commitment these organizations have shown the IETF and the Internet Society. In fact, the two organizations have provided significant sponsorship for 12 of the last 19 IETF meetings. Both are also Platinum sponsors of the Internet Society and have provided significant and varied additional support to the organization—from sponsorship to committee membership.

We are also greatly appreciative of their continued encouragement of others in their industry to join and support the Internet Society financially and to participate in the IETF. Participation in the IETF by network operators like Comcast is especially important, as their perspectives and contributions ensure the development of successful protocols—which inline with the IETF’s mantra of “running code” is measured by breadth of deployment. Comcast, for example, has become a leader in the deployment of IPv6 with over 24% of their customers having IPv6 service.

The long-term support by both Comcast and NBCUniversal is a significant addition to the support of open standards, which are key to the continued growth and evolution of Internet, and a foundation for the future of the IETF and the Internet Society.