As we look ahead to 2021, a key focus of our UA efforts must include advancing support for Email Address Internationalization (EAI) which, to put it simply, allows people to send and receive email from addresses in non-Latin-based languages and scripts. Fortunately, this issue is gaining recognition among major tech players. Most recently, Apple’s 2020 release of iOS14 enabled users to send and receive email using addresses in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Thai, and Hindi. Additionally, the UASG recently completed its first comprehensive round of EAI testing on popular global email systems, which had encouraging results. These are major steps towards building an inclusive Internet that can work for all users.
The domain names system was based on the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (Ascii), so it means that domain names were limited to characters, what we call the ‘letter, digit, hyphen scheme’, so basically letters A to Z, digits 0 to 9 and hyphen, so those were the only ones you could use to develop domain names. The community, eventually, as the internet expanded in countries that were not using the Ascii set of characters, had a clear need to expand this domain name system to support all the other languages and scripts around the world. – Sarmad Hussain, Sr. Director IDN & UA Programs, ICANN, BBC (14 April 2020)
Looking Back: Advance UA Readiness In 2020
UASG’s mission is driven forward by our dedicated members around the world who have made great strides to better support global Internet users. To all our volunteers – we thank you for your continued efforts and leadership within the Internet community!
In 2020, UASG members raised awareness and supported the remediation of non-UA-ready technology through global virtual trainings, workshops, and hackathons. Additionally, the Working Group members drove important UA gap analysis of current standards, technologies, services, and applications. Local Initiatives spread awareness of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) in their regional languages, and the UA Ambassadors organized informative meetings with influential tech companies in their respective regions. Notably, the UASG piloted a new program to expand training capacity through a Train-the-Trainer program, which taught more than 40 people from 17 countries how to train others on the fundamentals of UA.
More detailed information on what each UASG group accomplished can be found in the ICANN69 presentations, as well as in the FY20 UA Readiness Report. Additionally, several materials were published to provide tangible UA-readiness guides for global and diverse audiences. A complete list of these materials, including gap analysis, technical documentation and a detailed case study outlining ICANN org’s efforts to become UA-ready, is available at the end of this blog.
Domain names do not exist in isolation from the larger ecosystem of online services and content, and IDNs are no exception. In fact, the uptake of IDNs could be more challenging should there not be enough content in the same IDN language / script to serve the local community. Simply put, why would anyone use a domain name in Arabic for a website whose content is not in a language that uses Arabic script? – Baher Esmat, Vice President, Stakeholder Engagement – Middle East & Managing Director – Middle East & Africa (MEA), ICANN, IDN World Report (28 February 2020)
Looking Ahead: Supporting a More Inclusive and Multilingual Internet in 2021
In 2021, UASG members will collectively focus on raising awareness of UA and EAI issues among key stakeholders, developing remediation and training materials, as well as supporting developers, and email software/service providers in updating their systems. Below is an outline of key activities by Working Group:
Get Involved: Help Worldwide Users Experience the Power of the Internet
I am encouraged by our progress and focus for 2021. As we begin this new year, the economic and social benefits of supporting multilingual Internet users in their ability to access and connect to ecommerce, local communities, and governments, as well as to embrace and proliferate cultural traditions through language are clear. And there is still much more work to be done!
As a collaborative group, we welcome feedback and participation by anyone interested in enabling online choice and achieving digital inclusivity. There are many ways you can support this mission – from reading UASG articles and increasing your awareness, to sharing information with colleagues, to attending (virtually, for now) industry events, or volunteering your time and expertise on one of our working groups. If you’d like to get involved, consider joining a UA Working Group, becoming a UA Ambassador, establishing a UA Local Initiative, or contacting us for more information.
Thank you again to all of the people and organizations around the globe working to make the Internet more inclusive and representative of our diverse world.