ICANN yet to settle non-English domains issue

Weeklong discussions in India about the creation of online domain names entirely in languages other than English led to greater understanding but no major decisions, the chief executive of the internet's key oversight agency, quoted by an Associated Press report sad.

At issue is a proposed 'fast-track' mechanism for specific countries to get non-English suffixes, the '.com' part of internet addresses, the Associated Press report said.

For example, many internet users in China would like to see a Chinese-character equivalent of the '.cn' suffix, the report said.

Under one scenario, each country would be entitled to one non-English suffix while work continues on resolving broader challenges, such as how to make sure a domain in one language isn't inadvertently offensive in another.

Addresses partly in foreign languages are sometimes possible today, but the suffix for now is limited to 37 characters: a-z, 0-9 and the hyphen.

Supporters say demand for non-English names, to expand internet usage to those who cannot speak English or at least type English characters, is so great they cannot afford to wait the few years it might take to settle those questions.

Critics of giving those countries 'fast-track' status worry that they would get an unfair advantage over those that must wait until the full guidelines are developed.

'At the beginning of the week, various groups mapped out their extreme positions,' Paul Twomey, chief executive of the internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the US group tasked with overseeing domain name issues, quoted by the Associated Press report, said.

Twomey said a working group may make recommendations by ICANN's next major meeting in Paris in June. ICANN's board took no action on new domains as the meetings wrapped up in New Delhi.