Brussels, 16 November 2009
Internet Governance Forum: Commission welcomes landmark step towards a truly global internet
At the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), the European Commission today has welcomed a landmark step towards a truly global (and local) internet: the announcement that "Internationalised Domain Names" will be introduced at the top level. Until now, internet domain names were either fully or partly in the Latin "a to z" alphabet. ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which manages the internet's core directory, has announced that a fast track process would be launched today to open up country code top level domains (like ".eu" of europa.eu) to non Latin characters. This means that Europeans, especially in Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, will be able to see domain names in their own alphabets. Viviane Reding, the EU's telecoms and internet Commissioner, heralded this major multilingual development. She also called for the timeframe of the Internet Governance Forum – a unique multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for the global internet community – to be extended.
"The online world should be a reflection of the multicultural and multilingual world offline. The internet should therefore not just be English, but also Arabic, Bulgarian, Greek, Farsi, Hindi, and Chinese. I am delighted with ICANN's steps to further open domain names to different alphabets. The Commission has called for this for several years," said EU Commissioner Reding. "In Europe, we are already well ahead in our plans to enable names under dot.eu to use Greek and Cyrillic letters before the end of the year and we are also pushing forward to have Greek and Cyrillic script versions of dot.eu at the top level very soon".
ICANN's decision will allow internet users to register and use entire internet domain names (like europa.eu) with characters which are not in the English alphabet (a-z and 0-9). Internet domain names in non-Latin alphabets (like Arabic, Chinese or Cyrillic) are already being used in the second level of internet addresses ("europa" in europa.eu) but fully internationalised names have so far been impossible. ICANN's announcement that they will start to take applications for country-code Top Level Domains (like .bg, or .eu) in local language scripts will potentially allow millions more internet users around the world to get on-line in their own language.
In June 2009, the European Commission changed its internet domain name rules so that the characters of all 23 official EU languages can be used ( . From 10 December 2009, it will be possible to register names using characters like "à", "ą", "ä", "ψ" or "д" under ".eu". EU citizens and businesses will be able to register domain names in non-Latin scripts, which is essential for languages such as Greek and Bulgarian. Also, Spanish and Basque speakers can register names with "ñ" while French, Portuguese and Catalan speakers can use "ç". The EU will also introduce internationalised domain names on our own Top Level Domain – dot.eu – as soon as possible. .eu already has more than 3 million domain names registered in the more common Latin-based script ( )
EU calls for prolongation of Internet Governance Forum
The Internet Governance Forum was born out of the 2003-2005 World Summit on the Information Society, providing a single global multi-stakeholder platform where governments, the private sector and civil society can come together to discuss major issues related to internet governance. It was set up as a neutral, non-binding and non-duplicative process. The first IGF was held in Athens in 2006, followed by meetings in Rio de Janeiro (2007) and Hyderabad (2008). The fourth meeting is currently taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Its original five-year time frame will expire with the 5 th meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, next year. Before then, United Nations member countries will consider the need for an extension to the original time frame. " Before that next meeting there will be discussions on whether the IGF should continue to meet beyond 2010. For me the answer is easy: the IGF must continue," said EU Commissioner Viviane Reding.
For internet traffic to reach its destination, domain names and addresses are essential. The organisation responsible for the definition of policies for the global coordination of the Domain Name System (DNS) is ICANN, a private sector, non-profit US corporation based in California.
Since its creation in 1998, ICANN has operated under a series of Memoranda of Understanding with the US government which specified its objectives regarding policy making for the Domain Name System. The most recent Memorandum of Understanding expired on 30 September 2009. An affirmation of commitments between the US and ICANN was put in place.
In June 2009, the Commission called for ICANN to improve its accountability and said there should be greater involvement of non-US actors in its governance ( ). A reform of ICANN was announced by the US at the end of September. The Commission has welcomed the new arrangement in principle ( ). ICANN has been working on Internationalised Domain Names at the top level and announced to launch IDN country code TLDs in fast track on 16 November 2009.
On Europe's internet domain . eu:
On internet governance: