The Internet Society wants the multilingual testbed to be delayed for several months until the IETF can develop a specification for handling internationalized domain names from the many technical proposals it has received. However, at a minimum, the group would like to see the participating registrars inform buyers that the domain names being registered are temporary and subject to adjustmment when a standard is approved.
"Real problems come from the fact that there are conflicting proposals for how internationalized domain names should be handled," Maher explains.
"This automatically ensures there will be serious problems. It's like different companies selling telephone numbers or seats on the same flight."
VeriSign officials discounted the Internet Society's concerns and said that the testbed will not harm the stability of the DNS.
The Internet Society's concerns "come as a bit of a surprise because VeriSign Global Registry Services has worked very closely with the IETF, the IAB and the [Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] to ensure that we have a proper balance between the business interests and the technical interests," O'Shaughnessy adds.
VeriSign's multilingual testbed will allow companies to register names in non-English character sets in the .com, .net and .org domains. Initially, the testbed will support Japanese, Korean, traditional and simplified Chinese characters. In the near future, VeriSign also will support other languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.
VeriSign is using underlying technology from i-DNS.net International to translate the Japanese, Chinese and Korean characters into ASCII for inclusion in the DNS. VeriSign plans to start taking registrations for foreign character domain names on Thursday evening, but it has not announced when it will start resolving requests for multilingual domain names for e-mail and Web surfing.
VeriSign says the testbed will result in real domain name registrations but admits that the external representation of the names may change as an IETF standard emerges. On its Web site, VeriSign says it will "ensure current and future compliance with evolving internationalized domain name standards developed within the IETF and adherence to the IAB principle of a single DNS root."
Prices for multilingual domain names have not yet been released.