In previous issues of Anchovy News we have reported on the introduction of Internationalised country code Top Level Domain names (often referred to as IDN ccTLDs) and in particular the fast track roll out process put in place by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Until recently it was only possible to register the first part of a domain name in non Latin characters, depending on the characters allowed by the particular ccTLD in question - for example see the proposed list of characters used in French that the Canadian .CA Registry may shortly allow in our article above. However, the second part of the domain name, the ccTLD part, remained one of the two-letter country codes set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) which are all in Latin characters.

This meant that internet users had to change scripts to type IDNs into their browsers and this was not particularly user friendly for speakers of languages using non Latin scripts. However ICANN has begun rolling out IDN ccTLDs in different scripts, meaning that entire domain names may now be written in non Latin characters. This represents a significant step towards creating a less Anglophone centred internet and has been a long time coming considering that a significant proportion of internet users do not speak English as a first language.

Countries/territories wishing to apply for an IDN ccTLD first have to fulfil a number of requirements:  

  • the script used to represent the IDN ccTLDs must be non-
  • Latin;
  • the languages used to express the IDN ccTLDs must bevofficial in the corresponding country or territory; and
  • a specific set of technical requirements must be met (asvevaluated by an external Stability Panel comprised of Domain Name System and IDN experts).

Thus it can be seen that certain countries will not need to apply for an IDN ccTLD if their ISO code is the same in all their official languages, for example Canada will not need to apply for an IDN ccTLD as .CA functions in both English and French.

The ICANN request and evaluation processes entail three steps, namely preparation, string evaluation and string delegation. ICANN recently announced that the latest countries to successfully complete the string evaluation phase were Kazakhstan and Malaysia.

Kazakhstan requested the IDN ccTLD .Z[\. Once this string is successfully delegated it should not be long before it is possible to register domain names entirely in characters from the Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet. At the moment registration is only possible under .KZ and various second level domains such as .COM.KZ. Malaysia requested the IDN ccTLD, meaning .MALAYSIA in Malay (in the Arabic script). Eventually registrations under this extension will be possible in addition to existing registrations under .MY and various second level domains such as .COM.MY.

ICANN's announcement means that a total of 29 requests have successfully passed through string evaluation. Of these, 20 countries/territories (represented by 30 IDN ccTLDs) have been delegated in the root zone, with the remainder either preparing to apply, or actively applying for, delegation of the string.