International domain names succeed in testing

Advocates see ability to use internationalized domain names as crucial to retaining a single global Internet.

Internationalized domain names have moved a step closer to reality, following ICANN's announcement that it had successfully completed testing.

Currently, domain names can be composed of just 37 core symbols, including numbers, letters from the Latin alphabet and the hyphen.

Many countries whose languages use other characters--such as Chinese or Arabic--have long been demanding the ability to use internationalized domain names (IDNs) based on those characters. Advocates see this development as crucial to retaining a single global Internet.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers--the organization that administers domain names--commissioned a laboratory test of IDNs in October 2006. The test was designed to establish whether the use of encoded internationalized characters would "have any impact on the operations of the root name servers providing delegations or the iterative mode resolvers."

ICANN announced the results on Wednesday. "No impact at all could be detected," wrote tester Lars-Johan Liman. "All involved systems behaved exactly as expected."

All details of the test setup and design are available on ICANN's Web site so that it can be replicated if desired.

However, the test did not include the "end-user perspective" or a live root test. It instead concentrated on "replicating the root server environment." This suggests that significant further testing needs to be done before IDNs are allowed.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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