.test IDN TLD (For Real!)

Tina Dam and I caught up during ICANN San Juan on the current state of IDN TLD work within ICANN and that was when I first found out that she was putting together a live IDN TLD test bed which includes translations of the string .test into eleven written languages (Arabic, Chinese-simplified, Chinese-traditional, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Tamil and Yiddish) and ten scripts (Arabic, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, Han, Hangul, Hebrew, Hiragana, Katakana, Tamil).

I was very excited to hear that and wanted to blog about it but there was much to catch up at work so I let it slide.

Two days ago, an update from ICANN on this project:

ICANN today finalized the IDN .test Evaluation Plan and continued taking steps toward insertion of IDN strings in the root zone. Recent changes to the plan are based on comments received on the IDN public forum and also from consultations with ICANN Technical Advisory Committees. This last version was approved by the ICANN Board at their 14 August 2007 meeting. The resolution directs ICANN Staff to implement the IDN .test Evaluation Plan, and report back to the ICANN Board following the conclusion of the evaluation.

Specifically, the Board approved the delegation of eleven evaluative top-level domains representing the term ‘test’ translated into: Arabic, Persian, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Russian, Hindi, Greek, Korean, Yiddish, Japanese and Tamil. Following this ICANN Board approval, the delegation request will now go through standard IANA procedures for insertion of top-level domains into the root zone. The technical evaluations of IDN TLDs and their usability in various applications will proceed following their delegation.

This is a major milestone in the IDN Program Plan and signals a significant step forward towards Internationalization of the DNS. It is currently anticipated that delegation of these TLDs and the evaluations, as described in the plan, will commence in September 2007.

I would like to applaud ICANN (specifically Tina) on bringing the project this far. This is a major undertaking, and an important one too, for the following reasons:

  1. It works across the Internet — not just an isolated test that involved a couple of PCs running in a lab environment; they are going to insert these labels into the root zone! This is the only way to involve the most diverse mix of participants in the test bed. The fact that it requires no special setup (like tweaking of hint files) may lower the barrier for entities such as ISP’s, who are traditionally seldom interested in the development of IDN, to participate.
  2. As a result, it allows the most diverse array of test cases possible. Just imagine how an innocent domain name gets passed around applications, resolvers, recursive and authoritative DNS servers through a myriad of functions, API calls and networking protocols. It’s supposed to work but who knows for sure?
  3. It tests major scripts used by regions with an immediate need for IDN-TLDs (Latin would have induced yawns)

I’m sure there are skeptics and ICANN-haters out there who will dismiss this for time-wasting activity, etc. The truth is, no one has actually tested IDN TLD’s on Internet-wide scale before. And no, country-wide deployments will not suffice because the diversity of software environments and cultures simply isn’t there.

And if you’re a proponent of the Just-do-it school of thought, this should be seen as a move in the right direction. If no major problem was found during the live test, it will shut the mouths of those who are doubtful.

We should take advantage of this test to file bugs for your favourite software vendors and get them to support IDNs! When was the last time IANA inserted a test TLD to the root? Tell them that if IANA agreed to put these test strings in the freakin’ root, this is not a default ignorable technology alright!

So, help spread the word and test the Internationalized Internet!

नमस्ते



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