Internationalized Domain Names – Will We Experience?

Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) are the domain names (or simply websites name) represented by local language characters.

Present domain name architecture is based on ASCII characters (the English alphabets "a-z", numbers 0 to 9, and hyphens) and doesn’t interpret non-ASCII character scripts (like Arabic, Hindi, Chinese).

IDNs efforts are subject to ICANN resolution in 2000 stating “that it is important that the Internet evolve to be more accessible to those who do not use the ASCII character set,".

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a California based not-for-profit corporation established on September 18, 1998. ICANN is responsible for coordination and policy making of two most critical Internet resources i.e. Domain Names and IP addresses. Some of the major tasks performed include Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) such as .com, .net, .org and country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) such as .au, .uk, .pk name system management, and root server system management functions. We could say that ICANN is a kind of Regulator and Policy Maker for most significant Internet resources.

IDNs are implemented at the application (web browser) layer. In this regards, Internationalized Domain Names in Applications (IDNA) standard was defined in 2003 followed by IDNA protocol development by IETF.

Basic idea was to support non-ASCII domain names to a suitable ASCII-based form by web browsers and other user applications. All famous web browsers like Mozilla, Chrome, Netscape and Internet Explorer support IDNA. Successful IDN test launch has been accomplished for more than 22 International languages including Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Hindi, Korean and Urdu.

According to details available at ICANN website (, official launch of IDNs ccTLD Fast Track was made on November 16, 2009. ICANN is accepting requests from representatives of countries and territories around the world for new Internet extensions that represent their country name and are made up of non-Roman characters (their official language).

Enabling more than 1 billion non-English users showing their presence on Internet via IDNs is noteworthy step. Countries around the globe were taking a keen interest in this program since ICANN hold pre-launch consultation process for some years. This was the reason that the first requests were received on the same date i.e. 16 November 2009.

Detail available at ICANN website explain that the first IDNs ccTLD were made available internationally on May 05, 2010 while the following countries had their respective IDNs inserted in the DNS root zone.

  • Egypt: مصر (Egypt)
  • Saudi Arabia: السعودية (AlSaudiah)
  • United Arab Emirates: امارات (Emarat)

Further details of this remarkable program show that by this time ICANN has received a total of 33 requests for IDN ccTLD(s) through the String Evaluation process, representing 22 languages.

A total of 22 countries/territories requests have successfully passed through the String Evaluation; 12 countries/territories IDN ccTLDs are delegated in the DNS root zone; and the rest are either in or ready for the requesting country or territory to initiate the application for String Delegation. Some of the countries whose IDN string has passed initial string evaluation are India, Morocco, Oman, Iran, Russia and Sri Lanka.

The trend shows that most developing countries have took a great interest in facilitating their Internet users to write down a website name in their own local language. This would not only proliferate the Internet usage but will also help in bridging the digital divide.

Unfortunately, there was no update found about Pakistan as an applicant for IDNs ccTLD. This is indeed a point of thinking since other regional countries are in process of IDNs introduction which is indeed an important opportunity to be availed.

Neither Ministry of IT nor any other public institute has any news or update on the subject.

Though it was heard year back that we will be applying for our IDN ( .پاکستان ) where PSEB would be acting as the management and administration of this Internet resource for the country. However, we are unable to find any such update at relevant corners. A question that arrives in mind is that will we be able to type in URDU domain names in our web browsers some day?.