Archive for the 'icann' Category

Dot Sydney GovCampNSW Session Debrief

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Recently I attended GovCampNSW, several days after Cloud Registry, in partnership with Sedari and CoCCA, submitted our response to the RFP for .sydney, .melbourne and .victoria gTLDs.

GovCampNSW turned out to be one of the most inspiring unconferences I’ve attended, to the credit of the (un)organisers, volunteers, and supporting partners. For the uninitiated:

GovCampNSW is an invitation to be part of an emerging conversation, that may inspire and shape new opportunities for innovation in government in Sydney, in NSW and beyond.

It is an opportunity to talk with a mix of people – from inside and outside government, from the worlds of technology and policy, of community and universities – to talk about shaping an agenda for innovation in NSW and to make a start on that agenda.

My agenda for attending was simple: to gauge the level of awareness of new gTLDs among fellow attendees and take home some pertinent lessons.

It was shaping up to be a great day. I arrived bright and early and bumped into Paul Wallbank, with whom I had an interesting conversation about new gTLDs over coffee! I also managed to speak to the Information Commissioner Deirdre O’Donnell briefly about Whois privacy and the .sydney project.

When the time came to nominate sessions on the white board, I scribbled in one of the slots:
.sydney manifesto ~ public-citizen collaboration

The question I had in mind was “how should the government of NSW involve the stakeholders in its design of the city’s digital identity, including the name space planning and governance aspects of the dotSydney gTLD?”

After the crowd had settled in our little cozy break out spot, I presented the story:

I was hopeful that the discussions would help craft some important points to inform the government about what matters to the stakeholders; hence, the “collaborative manifesto” in the slide title.

Following are my notes from the session. While they are far from being a “manifesto”, it highlights several important areas that may not be apparent to those of us who have been working in the industry for far too long.

  • On the Environment and Scoping Study:
  • Paul Wallbank: the $185,000 ICANN application fee smells like a scam
  • Paul Wallbank: How do you define Sydney, and the granularity of it? Who owns it? The NSW government? Or the people?
  • John Wells advised us to look at auDA’s Community Geographic Domain Name which has an interesting governance model
  • Several participants expressed the concern that: do businesses need to do defensive registration their product or name in every city that the business has a presence in, that also happen to have its own TLD?
  • There were also concerns about pricing of domains
  • Judy: .sydney could foster a sense of community
  • Some people agreed that there’s immense peer pressure — if major metropolitan cities like New York City, Paris and London have their own top-level domains, Sydney must have one too.

It it obvious that there is a lot of work to be done on outreach and public engagement in order to ensure that the .sydney, .melbourne and .victoria TLDs are well-integrated into the respective communities that they represent. We are keen to extend the efforts to the greater public sphere.

Please leave a comment if you have any ideas, suggestions or criticisms.

Optimizing Autocomplete by Utilizing Browser Cache

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Say you have a snazzy AJAXified autocomplete field that gives instantaneous feedback to the user as she types — perhaps a username field on a signup form or something akin to Google Suggest. Except, it’s not performing as well as you thought it should. That round trip to the server for each character is taking too long.

The first thing you should do is to see if HTTP Keep-Alive is supported by your server.

Second, and this may seem obvious, but I’ve seen too many developers forget to leave a hint to the browser to cache the results. As a result, the page becomes sluggish due to a feature that’s meant to be responsive.

See what happens behind the scene when you sign up for a new Twitter account. Suppose you try to register the username “wil”, but it’s taken. For each character you type, the browser makes HTTP requests to check that the username in the input field to see if it’s available.

So that’s one for “w”, “wi”, “wil”. Then you find that all 3 are taken. Ok, perhaps time to add a numeric suffix? “wil1″ – nope, delete the “1”, and we’re back to “wil” again. Guess what? Another HTTP request is sent to Twitter for the same string “wil”!

Had Twitter set an “Expires” header to usernames that are taken, the browser wouldn’t have had to make that round trip!

Below are the headers sent by Twitter for the https://twitter.com/users/username_available URI (courtesy of Hurl):

In the case of signup forms, usernames are rather involatile pieces of data, so it’s a prime optimization target. As your namespace becomes more scarce, you’ll tend to have people trying more strange combinations, increasing the number of requests to your servers.

In my case, I’ve applied it to our TLD management platform. Domain names that are registered gets a 10 minute cache timeout value (which is heaps short but good enough to ensure a snappy UI operations). However, with domain names, it’s a lot more volatile but we’re not guaranteeing success at the point of registering a name so anywhere between 1-5 minutes is usually sufficient.

A simple view snippet in Django does the trick and goes a long way to making your users happy.

/ Blogging from a HSDPA connection

Why Internationalize?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Tower of Babel

Seth Godin‘s book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us looks like a good read, especially for marketers, crowd-herders, and entrepreneurs. Along with the book, he also started an invitation-only triiibal network on Ning, and got the folks to write an ebook called The Tribes Casebook (free download).

There’s a particular essay in there written by Dr. Saleh AlShebil titled When Technology Fails: A Language gets Born in an Online Tribe. Dr. AlShebil wrote about how an ASCII-based language (that he calls Araby) was born due to the lack of Arabic language input support on early instant messaging networks. These are transliterations of Arabic into Latin alphabets, not unlike l33t but grew out of different motivations.

Here’s what it looks like (source):

Sound Arabic letter ASCII Example
/ħ/ (a heavy /h/-type sound) ح 7 wa7ed (one)
/ʕ/ (a tightening of the throat resembling a light gargle) ع 3 ba3ad (after)
/t’/ (the emphatic version of /t/) ط 6 6arrash (he sent)
/s’/ (the emphatic version of /s/) ص 9 a9lan (actually)
/ʔ/ (glottal stop) ء 2 so2al (question)

So, واحد (one) sounds roughly like “wahed”, and you’d write it as “wa7ed”.

Quoting Dr. AlShebil (emphases added):

Arabic language alphabet is comprised of 28 letters. Some of these letters do not have an equivalent “sound” in English. So what did our online tribe do? They began looking for numbers and other keystrokes that can somehow resemble what the real Arabic letter “looks” like. Let me explain…

For instance, the Arabic letter “ﻉ” is pronounced as A’aa when used in a word and it got replaced with the number “3” since “3” looks like an inverted “ﻉ”. So the word Arabic which is written “Araby” (in Arabic sounding English) and begins with “ﻉ” was then written as “3raby.”

…This new form of tribal net lingo began to spread like wildfire. It would probably be a safe assumption to say that any Arab who is online today (especially the youth) is pretty familiar with it. Using it was not limited to chat and instant messaging but has also swelled to include any form of writing in online communities and even in mobile text messaging (sms). The Arabic net lingo virus caught on to Arabic websites that even wanted their domain names to sound or “look” Arabic.

As mentioned above, this is similar to l33t-speak, and also the lesser-known ギャル文字 (Gyaru-Moji).

Now, I dig subcultures like these, but don’t you think there’s something wrong with the emergence of a new lingo that could potentially erode a language like Arabic just because technology couldn’t support it?

Is this serious enough to erode the Arabic language? Maybe I’m exaggerating but one can imagine youths forgetting how to spell correctly in Arabic script because they’re so used to using “Araby”.

This is the case for why internationalization is important for the Internet (and technology in general.) More importantly, it is the prime motivation behind Internationalized Domain Names, which is in turn a primary contributor to the need for new TLDs.

Internationalization is not for vanity or luxury, it’s a necessity to preserve culture.

Domain Tool for iPhone — whois on the move

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Introducing DomainTool — an iPhone application for querying domain name whois information. I wrote this to learn iPhone programming (with a certain killer app in mind) as well as to scratch my own itch.

Occasionally, I find myself needing to think of a product name or domain name for a web site. Ideas can knock on my head at any time: at lunch, in the toilet or waiting in the queue. I could note it down on a generic note taker on the phone, or jot it down on a piece of paper, but nothing beats being able to instantly find out if the domain is available and keep track of it in a dedicated app. Hence, DomainTool was born.

As with any great app, it should be simple to use, and addresses a focused need. Thus, you’ll find the following grand feature list:

  • Query WHOIS servers to find out if a domain name is taken. Similar to the command line whois tool
  • Bookmark a domain name, and query it again anytime
  • Supports all TLD that has a published WHOIS server: COM, NET, ORG, BIZ, INFO, CC, JP, CN, TW, KR, MY, SG, PR, DE, EU, and many more!
  • Supports Internationalized Domain Names (IDN)

Some screenshots:

By now, I suppose you’re dying to try it out on your iPhone, and I can certainly sympathize with that. It can be yours for USD0.99 (or the equivalent in your currency) — 70% of which goes to my coffee bank, and the rest goes to Mr. Jobs.

Get it here!

.test IDN TLD (For Real!)

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

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!

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