Thursday, November 05, 2009

Queuing for IDN gTLDs in Seoul

Early last week, still jetlagged from the long flight in from the US, I had the chat with some of the Emerging Markets delegates to the Seoul ICANN meeting. And, on the basis of that conversation, I drafted my article about Kenya’s struggle to sell tea to its markets in the Middle East on an all-Arabic website and the need for IDN gTLDs ( What I didn’t know was just how much support there was for the idea of IDNs generally and for IDN g’s. But now we know.

At the “Public Forum” part of the meeting on Thursday – a kind of organized “open mic” period for those of you that have never been to one of these jamborees – no fewer than TWELVE different people rose to speak on behalf of moving forward with IDNs. Moreover, ten of them – nearly all – urged ICANN to finish the job by making IDN gTLDs available too. Amen and amen.

The list of speakers was impressive and diverse. There were comments from the French government representative talking about the need for equity in the IDN space. There were Chinese registrars almost begging ICANN to help them give their “netizens” a chance to use all-Chinese domains. And there were private sector firms from Korea, to Israel to Austria explaining how gTLDs – the vast majority of sites in the world – needed to be made “IDN available”, so businesses could maintain and grow their operations in a globalizing world. Of course, I rose to talk about Kenya and again stress the economic development benefits of IDNs and gIDNs in particular.

There’s no doubt that the IDN train has momentum. Work on the limited number of fast-track of ccIDNs is meaningful… as far as it goes. But there should be no more haggling about the rest of the IDN space. We’ve gone past the point of wondering if this can work technically. In Seoul and over the last decade we’ve answered the question of whether or not people care. They do. People representing all kinds of businesses large and small, governments and other stakeholders.

Congratulations, sure, for ICANN. A lot of work went into getting this far. Still, this is serious business for parts of the world – like India, China, Pakistan, and yes Kenya – that are just coming on line in large numbers. The age of a US- and English-centered Internet is coming to an end, as it should be. Building out the IDN space, especially IDN gTLDs is the next step.

Time to finish the job.

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