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The IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) Working Group was formed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 2000 to develop standards in order to multilingual domain names. They were tasked to create a specific set of requirements and formulate IETF standards-track protocols to allow the use of non-ASCII scripts or characters in domain names.[1] The IDN Working Group was co-chaired by James Seng and Marc Blanchet. ICANN also established its own IDN Working Group on 2001.[2]


The internationalization of domain names was first introduced by Martin Duerst from the University of Zürich through an Internet Draft submitted to the IETF on December 10, 1996.[3][4] Following the proposal, the National University in Singapore Center for Internet Research organized a team led by Prof. Tan Tin Wee along with Lim Juay Kwang and Leong Kok Yong to conduct research on IDN in 1998. During that year further research and meetings were done in conjunction with the Duerst proposal, including Prof. S. Subiah's research from BIX Pte. Ltd., Geneva INET'98 Conference, the APNG General Meeting and Working Group Meetings. The iDNS Working Group was formed and James Seng was recruited by BIX Pte. Ltd. to lead the continuous development of IDN.[5]

On February 1999, James Seng led the launch of the iDNS test bed with the cooperation of the Asia Pacific Networking Group, China Internet Network Information Center, Japan Network Information Center, Korea Network Information Center, Taiwan Information Network Information Center, Thailand Network Information Center, Hong Kong Network Information Center and Singapore Network Information Center. The test bed was succeeded by the presentation of the IDN Report during the joint APNG-APTLD Meeting at the APRICOT '99 Conference. On March of 1999, the IDN Report was endorsed during the APNG General Meeting. On June 1999, APNG together with National University of Singapore Center for Internet Research filed a grant application with the International Development Research Center, an international organisation funded by the Canadian Government to work on IDN for IPv6. The following month, the IDNA patent application was filed by Walid R. Tout. James Seng, Martin Duerst and Tan Tin Wee published Internet Draft UTF5 and it was succeeded by the establishment of a Working Group by APTLD and APNG to evaluate the issues related to the IDN. The Working Group was headed by Kilnam Chon. By the end of 1999, the IETF IDN Birds of Feather was initiated by International in Washington and the first commercial IDN was implemented in Taiwanese and Chinese characters under the IDN top level domain.Furthermore, Kilnam Chon initiated the formation of the IDNS Task Force, which paved the way to the establishment of the Multilingual Internet Names Consortium.[6]

Establishment of ICANN IDN Working Group

On March 13, 2001, the ICANN Board adopted Resolution 1.39 during ICANN 8 in Melbourne, Australia, creating the IDN Working Group. The stated task of the IDN Working Group in the board resolutions reads:[7]

In order to promote better understanding of the technical and policy issues surrounding the internationalization of domain names, the Board designates an internal working group … to identify the various internationalization efforts and the issues they raise, to engage in dialogue with technical experts and other participants in these efforts, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Board.


The primary mission of the IDN Working Group is to gather information regarding the technical issues, possible solutions, legal and policy questions, and the current activities being done in connection to the IDNs to educate the ICANN Board and the ICANN Community regarding the issue as well as to help the internet governing body to fulfill its responsibility in the technical management of the internet domain names ad IP addresses.[8]


IDN Working Group Report

The Working Group distributed several surveys within the ICANN community to determine the technical and policy issues associated with the implementation of IDN services. It also consulted different groups working on IDN such as the Arabic Internet Names Consortium, MINC and JPNIC. Masanobu Katoh reported the results of the survey during the Stockholm ICANN Meeting in 2001. Based on the final report of the Working Group, the ICANN community expressed their strong support for the implementation of the IDN, however there were technical issues that needed to be addressed first that would possibly harm the stability of the Internet. The Working Group found that there were two main technological approaches that could be possibly adopted: the UTF-8, which requires reconfiguration of all internet servers, and the client-side approach, which requires the installation of a software that allows translation of local encoding from the user's computer into ASCII Compatible Encoding. Since the neither of the identified approaches are identified as the best approach, the IETF IDN Working Group is having difficulties in adopting a standard for IDN implementation. The ICANN IDN Working Group opined that the IETF is leaning towards adopting the client side approach. The Working Group also reported that a possible increase in cybersquatting may occur upon the implementation of IDN, and the ICANN community suggested several solutions such as the used of UNDRP arbitrators familiar with non-Latin scripts. The Working Group also found that there were already 1 million registered IDNs waiting for IETF to implement an IDN standard.[9]


The ICANN IDN Working Group recommended that the ICANN Board create an IDN Steering Committee, with representatives from the Supporting Organizations, to coordinate with the IETF IDN Working Group to expedite the adoption and implementation of an IDN standard. The IDN Steering Committee should work on promotion of interoperability, cybersquatting prevention, competition, market access and consumer protection principles. Furthermore, GAC and the Working Group should provide advice to the ICANN Board regarding policy issues related IDN.[10]