VGRS not the only one mucking up IDNs
[Posted to Random Bytes on January 6, 2003 11:25 PM| Links to this post ]
As I mentioned earlier this week, there is a lot more to be said about Verisign's IDN initiative. There are severe problems with IDNs but, VGRS isnít solely to blame.

As Dr. Tan Tin Wee points out, the IETF hasn't been quick in coming to consensus on the technical issues and that no workable model of administration has emerged from ICANN. There can be no doubt that the IETF won't eventually come to settlement on the technical issues - they don't like failure and are far too smart to let things get that far. But what they deliver won't give the community the full package of goods needed to deploy IDNs. The implications of the technology will need to be fully understood before it can be implemented to any appreciable degree. This implies, as Tin Wee notes, that a workable model of administration and attendant policies are just as critical to a successful deployment as the technical aspects. This aren't aftermarket parts that we can simply install later. These are critical aspects of the total solution that we need now - before more rogue "testbeds" further complicate the issues.

The Verisign IDN roll-out got a lot of attention - ICANN issued an advisory noting that they had received "expressions of concern", press reports started to surface (I got dubbed as a "pundit") and the pot generally started to boil over. These events don't fundamentally change anything - action still needs to be taken, there are still problems to solve.

What is clear is that without an appropriate administrative framework and clear policy, Registry Operators will continue to develop and deploy IDNs into the zones according to what best suits their interest Ė not necessarily those of the community. This isn't an indictment, but rather an acknowledgement of the natural tendency of corporations. In the case of the DNS, the registry operators received their delegations with the implication that they would operate the zone in the interests of the community. Somewhere along the way, this condition has been watered down, or at the very least, conveniently ignored.

Paul Hoffman is getting close to the right idea when he advocates that ICANN needs to ďdemand that VGRS immediately stop [the IDN trial in its current form]. If VGRS refuses, that ICANN should re-delegate the .com and .net zones to registries that are more willing to follow the DNS standards.Ē

Thereís a small problem with this though. Verisign has no obligation to follow the suggestions of the the IETF (surprise, RFCs arenít binding) and there isnít a clear ICANN policy in place for the registry operators to atorn to. Fixing the problem is simple. ICANN needs new policy and the IETF needs to finish up their work on IDNs (as they inevitably would anyways.)

ICANN has issued an advisory and started asking questions of the technical community in response to Hoffmanís inquiry, but there is no indication that they are going to put their foot down. Further, the historical absence of activity from ICANNís IDN Task Force continues. This is the group that is supposed to be making policy recommendations to the Names Council for consideration and possible adoption as policy. Even the Board IDN Committee,  which is clearly chartered to deal with the issue, has been silent for quite some time. While there may be quiet work going on behind the scenes, ICANN is not publicly conveying strong signals that they are willing to take a progressive stance on this issue.

The logical proposal to proceed is quite simple. ICANN needs to call upon the community for proposals, synthesize the responses into a coherent statement of consensus policy and amend the contracts in such a way that the results become binding upon those that have been tasked to operate the zones.

I might even be talked into writing a proposal for consideration.
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