By Sarmad Hussain, Sr. Director IDN & UA Programs

ICANN’s global multistakeholder community recently came together virtually for ICANN72 Annual General Meeting (25-28 October), which followed a robust Prep Week schedule of sessions from 12-14 October. In both cases, Universal Acceptance (UA) and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) were prominent topics on the agenda, with several sessions dedicated to exchanging ideas and collaborating in support of UA, as well as measuring the progress of UA adoption globally.

The emphasis on UA- and IDN-related topics reflects their importance as strategic initiatives in ICANN’s FY22-26 Financial and Operating Plans, as well as President and CEO Göran Marby’s

FY 2022 strategic goals:

Goal 8: Stimulate Universal Acceptance, including Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)

While stimulation actions have been taking place over the past years, both within the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) and through support and financing of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group, Universal Acceptance still has room to grow to ensure new domain names resolve widely, across regions and applications. With preparations for the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) round underway, an important part of its success will be determined by how much new users are served by domain names written in local character scripts.

UA and IDNs play an important role in making it possible for people around the world to connect with their communities through domain names and email addresses in local languages and scripts, including Arabic, Cyrillic, Hindi, Thai, and many others. Adoption of UA and IDNs makes online systems more inclusive and multilingual, and supports ICANN’s mission to help ensure a stable, secure, and unified global Internet.

As we continue our work in service of this mission, it was encouraging to see the depth and quality of UA-related dialogue at ICANN72. A central theme of the conversations was increasing engagement with Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees such as the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC), Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), and the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), in order to better understand what they need and how they can collaborate with the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG) to achieve common goals.

Below is a recap of relevant activities and discussions:

  • Progress and Next Steps for Universal Acceptance (13 October)

Hosted by the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG), this Prep Week session presented the FY21 UA Readiness Report and FY22 Action Plan. The UASG presented the progress on the work accomplished in FY21 to the community, including the gap analysis conducted and the successful outreach through the UA local initiatives and the UA ambassador program. The session focused and solicited feedback on priorities for FY22 for each of the UASG working groups, including a continued focus on localized outreach and training.

Listen to the session recording here.

  • Root Zone Label Generation Rules Update (14 October)

Root Zone Label Generation Rules (RZ-LGR) are developed by the relevant script community to define a conservative mechanism to determine valid IDN top-level domains (TLDs) and their variant labels. This Prep Week session introduced the need for RZ-LGR, its status and how to use it. The Latin and Japanese script community panels presented their script proposals that are published for Public Comment, and the Integration Panel presented on next steps to integrate the finalized Armenian, Cyrillic, Greek, Japanese, Korean, and Latin script RZ-LGR proposals into RZ-LGR version 5 (RZ-LGR-5).

Listen to the session recording here.

  • LAC Space (26 October)

This open-ended session aimed to provide a space for stakeholders from Latin American and the Caribbean to discuss various issues. Topics discussed included a presentation on the Latin RZ-LGR proposal, open for Public Comment.

Listen to the session recording here.

  • GNSO EPDP on Internationalized Domain Names (27 October)

The recently launched GNSO Expedited Policy Development Process team (EPDP) is tasked with providing the GNSO Council with policy recommendations on: 1) the definition of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and the management of variant labels; and 2) how the IDN Implementation Guidelines, which contracted parties are required to comply with, should be updated in the future. In this session, the EPDP team discussed and solicited broader community input on these topics and other issues within its charter.

Listen to the session recording here.

  • DNS Women: Universal Acceptance – Where Are We Today (27 October)

DNS Women (Domain Name System Women) is a global networking organization that provides encouragement, inspiration, and active support to women in the DNS industry. The session, which featured remarks from ICANN CEO Göran Marby, emphasized the importance of encouraging women around the world to respond to the ever-increasing need for leadership on issues critical to the growth of the Internet, including and especially UA.

Listen to the session recording here.

  • GAC Meeting with the UASG (28 October)

The GAC can promote UA work by advising the UASG on effective messaging, encouraging members to raise awareness of UA with their respective governments, and adopt UA practices for their own e-government services. In this working session, the UASG shared updates on the current gaps in UA and highlighted the role of governments in achieving UA-readiness. The UASG also discussed how it could collaborate with and support the GAC to achieve common goals.

Listen to the session recording here.

As you can see, there were a number of substantiative and productive conversations at ICANN72 related to UA progress and adoption. In addition to these discussions, ICANN regularly engages with the community throughout the year on UA issues, including supporting the recent outreach by the UASG around ICANN72 to ALAC in September and a meeting with the GNSO Council in November, both focusing on increasing collaboration on promoting and adopting UA. On behalf of everyone at ICANN, we’d like to thank the community for your commitment and continued contributions to our important work, at ICANN72 and throughout the year.