Sparks Fly at Icann Meeting in Seoul
The change is one of the biggest since the Internet, and the Web portion of it, became popularized in the early 1990s.
But it only affects a lesser-known and lesser-used group of top-level domains known as the country codes. These are the Web addresses with endings like .us, .cn, .uk or .kr, for United States, China, United Kingdom and South Korea, respectively. Their assignment and use are guided by government-set rules.
For now, the 21 so-called generic domains — like .com, .edu, .gov, .net and .org — will remain accessible by Roman letters only.
Sparks flew over the timing for the internationalization of those domains, which account for about 60% of the world’s Web addresses, at the public forum of the Icann international meeting in Seoul on Thursday.
“We look forward to the day when our customers don’t need to switch to English to reach our Web site,” said Lee Dong-bum, chief executive of a small Korean consulting firm, who heard about the conference and wanted to make sure the techies in charge of the Internet keep businesspeople like him in mind. “Don’t forget dot-com
,” he said.
Indeed, regular attendees of Icann’s international meetings say the highlight of the weeklong conference, which is mainly a series of smaller meetings of network engineers and computer scientists talking over technical matters, is the public forum. It’s a free-for-all where anybody, even people who walk in off the street, gets a say in how the Internet should work.
Icann is aiming to allow the country-code domains to use other alphabets as soon as next month, though countries will likely take several months to decide on their own rules. It is likely to allow the generic domains to start using other alphabets in 2011, though a precise date hasn’t been set.
“I believe we’ve left this gaping hole in serving the global Internet,” says Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, a Washington-based coalition of trade associations concerned about Internet issues. Many companies, he added, don’t want to have to go to government authorities for permission to get a Web address, though they may feel pressure to do so if competitors do.
Numerous technical and business difficulties surround the implementation of international languages. Some companies that run “root servers,” the computers that keep track of who possess what Web address and then direct each request for data to the proper place, are also being asked to cope with several other changes.
Lars-Johan Liman, a Swedish engineer at a root server company, stood up at the forum to tell all the people who want changes in the Internet that they can be done — but not overnight. “We want to do it gradually, so we see the Internet users are following what we do,” he said