20 August 2019

Today’s blog post explains what Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) are. We look at the background of IDNs and how their introduction will be a significant step towards the development of a multilingual DNS for .au.

What are IDNs?

For the internet to expand to its full potential, it is important that everyone is able to access its services in their own language. Many people have not yet seen domain names in Arabic or Chinese or other languages that use characters that aren’t traditional ASCII (or “English”) characters. That is all changing, and .au will soon offer names in languages that use non-English characters too.

The development of IDNs began shortly after the internet itself launched, when early internet pioneers recognised that non-English speakers would need to be able to access online services in their native languages. The internet’s underlying addressing system, the DNS (Domain Name System), was originally in English, so a method was needed to map non-English characters to DNS readable addresses. The “Unicode Consortium” was founded in 1991 to establish a unique code point for each non-English character, so that the DNS could route requests for such names to the correct site. Today, working names in Arabic, Chinese and many other languages appear in domain names both to the left and to the right of the dot.

In 2020, .au Domain Administration is planning to expand the utility of names ending in .au by introducing IDNs in languages such as Arabic, Chinese (simplified), Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. An example of a second level Arabic .au IDN is http://مثلا.au

What are the proposed rules for IDNs in .au?

The updated Licencing Rules for .au  anticipate IDNs, stating that they are ‘domain names containing characters not included in the traditional DNS preferred form (LDH)’. The rules state that LDH refers to ‘Letter, Digit, Hyphen and relates to domain names containing only letters (a-z), numbers (0-9) and hyphens (-), or a combination of these.’ Beyond observance of the technical protocols governing IDNs, no special rules apply and IDNs will be governed by the same policies as other names ending in .au (e.g. applicants must have an Australian presence).

How will the introduction of IDNs be beneficial to .au?

Australia has a growing, ethnically diverse population so it can be recognised that the introduction of IDNs will be a significant step towards a multilingual DNS. The full scale development of an IDN protocol is likely to occur next year, ultimately providing more choice in .au domain names. Afilias Australia and auDA welcome your feedback on this exciting development.

Have a question or idea for a future blog post? Email us at blog@afilias.com.au