ICANN’s recent meeting in Brussels was one of the most successful to date. Over 1,625 delegates from more than 130 countries attended, discussing a range of important issues that affect the future development of the internet.

Judging from the media coverage, it might seem as though the meeting was dominated by developments relating to the .XXX sponsored Top Level Domain (TLD)application. That wasn’t the case. Two important developments took place at the meeting that will have a greater impact on the internet globally than .XXX will – if it is approved.

First though, a quick recap on .XXX. At the Brussels meeting, ICANN’s board voted to allow the application for the controversial .XXX top-level domain  to move forward. A private company, the ICM Registry, initially applied for the .XXX sponsored top-level domain as a potential community site for the adult entertainment industry in 2004. The application was rejected for a second time in March 2007 as it failed to meet sponsored community criteria as defined in the application guidelines.

The decision taken at the Brussels meeting does not mean final approval of the application is a foregone conclusion. The board approved a detailed set of next steps for the application, including expedited due diligence, negotiations on a draft registry agreement, and consultation with ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

Upon completion of these processes, the ICANN board will be asked to vote again on the proposal for a final time.

The news that was overlooked at ICANN Brussels

Two significant announcements made during the ICANN Brussels meeting that were for the most part overlooked, as a result of the focus on .XXX.

The first relates to action taken to further strengthen the security of the domain name system, following the exposure of a potentially serious flaw that could have been exploited by hackers.

Since the flaw was exposed, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been engaged in the development of Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) that will ensure the security of the DNS. ICANN and VeriSign have been deploying DNSSEC for the root zone (the top level DNS zone).

At the Brussels meeting, the Public Interest Registry (PIR) – operators of .ORG – announced that it has taken the final step to become the first generic top-level domain (gTLD) to offer full deployment of DNSSEC.

The second announcement – and certainly the one with the most widespread impact – relates to the introduction of Chinese language character script into the internet’s root.  ICANN board approval was granted on the closing day of the meeting, following a period of thorough technical testing and discussions between three different operators in the Chinese region – the China Internet Network Information Centre in Beijing, The Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation and TW NIC Taiwan Network information centre in Taipei.

As a result of this development, Chinese language users will be able to enter entire domain names into a browser using Chinese script – including the extension to the right of the last dot. The importance of this development can’t be overstated. More than 1 billion people worldwide today use Chinese as their primary language. That means 1 in 5 people on the planet will directly benefit from the introduction of Chinese language IDN’s.

To put this in perspective, imagine the internet had been developed in China. Until now, non-Chinese speakers would have had to convert domain extensions from their native language into Chinese characters when entering a URL.

Earlier this year, Arabic and Cyrillic IDN’s were approved and other languages are expected to follow soon.

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