Multilingual domain names under fire

Network World |  Networking

Several of the world's largest domain name registrars will start selling multilingual domain names Thursday night, despite a recommendation from the Internet Society that this initiative be delayed because it will harm the stability of the Internet's Domain Name System.

VeriSign Global Registry Services, the central registry for all names in the .com, .net and .org domains, will start accepting domain names in Chinese, Japanese and Korean at 7 p.m. EST on Nov. 9 under its multilingual testbed. VeriSign has qualified 22 registrars including Network Solutions, Register.com and TUCOWS.com to sell the names.

Indeed, Register.com has already pre-registered thousands of multilingual names, primarily from multinational corporations looking to retain their company and product names in Asian languages. Register.com's customers include Motorola, IBM and Proctor & Gamble.

"We've seen a huge response from companies that have defined brands all over the world," says Register.com spokesman Shonna Koegan.

"We're being inundated with questions about multilingual names being available for .com," agrees Jeffrey Johnson, vice president of Network Solutions' country code and secondary market name service. "We haven't had multilingual technology on the Internet. This is such a watershed event."

VeriSign officials said they will move forward with the multilingual testbed despite concerns from the Internet Society, which oversees both the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).

"The testbed absolutely will not be delayed," says VeriSign spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy. "The true promise of the Internet will not arrive until we can serve the 90 percent of the world's population that doesn't speak English as its primary language."

The Internet Society issued on Wednesday a press release asking that the multilingual testbed be delayed until the IETF can develop a proposed standard for internationalized domain names.

The Internet Society "believes the commercial testbed is premature under the technical standards of the Internet," the press release states. It recommends that "before users of the Internet establish claims of ownership of particular domain names, it is now time for a hiatus in the commercial deployment of internationalized character sets in the operational DNS."

David Maher, vice president for public policy at the Internet Society, admits that it is unusual for the group to issue such a strongly worded press release.

"This is very significant," Maher says. "As the umbrella organization for the IETF and the IAB, the Internet Society represents a worldwide collection of the most respected engineers and technical professions on the Internet...We think this will absolutely hurt the DNS and inevitably lead to conflicts as people claim to have the rights to certain names because of this testbed."

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