Monday, August 22, 2011

ICANN 41 Singapore 2011

The five day Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) 41 meeting was held in Singapore on 19 – 24 June 2011. The ICANN meetings are held three times each year in different regions of the globe. The meeting has pre-meeting workshops, working group sessions and ICANN's annual general meeting. It is a good opportunity for NIXI fellows to have face-to-face discussions with various people dedicated to the guiding of the future of the Internet.

The ICANN 41 meeting is of particular significance to those concerned with the subject of Internet governance. The controversial new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) was approved by the ICANN board at this meeting. The internet pundits predicted before the event that "Internet is poised for potentially one of its biggest shakeups in years". Being part of this historic moment and to watch the ICANN board vote to expand TLD space was an experience that I will cherish. It really motivated me to play an active role in future ICANN activities.

Another important topic at ICANN 41 was Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). The ability to have country code top-level domain (ie. displayed in non-latin alphabet would bring the local language computing to full circle. We now have complete operating systems, word processors, web browsers and email clients available in local languages. With implementation of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) computer users can surf the web and email in their local language.

The Internationalized Domain Names(IDNs) implementation poses certain complex linguistic and technical problems. At ICANN 41 various IDN Variant TLD case studies were presented. Of particular interest was the Arabic and Devanagari language case studies. The problems faced by various IDN variants are similar however there seems no consensus on how to address them. Presentation and transcripts from these meetings are available here.

Jothan Frakes presentation on Universal Acceptability, The Public suffix & IDN Whitelist was really good. I never realized that Mozilla Firefox supported IDNs. Later I met up with Frakes to understand the internals of Mozilla Firefox IDN support.

James Galvin (Afilias) IDN e-mail solution was perhaps the most practical demonstration of IDN Email support. I hope to test Thunderbird Aurora with IDN email addresses with help of Afilias in the future.

In future, I would be participating in IDN working groups with special emphasis on IDN support for Mozilla Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client. Also work with various Indian language IDN variants groups. Document various technical solutions and provide support using existing workarounds.

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