ICANN Universal Acceptance Steering Group: interview with leadership

I think that the lack of universal acceptance is a big impediment in the uptake of IDNs.  After all, what do you use IDNs for?  You use IDNs in emails, you use IDNs in websites, you use IDNs as a way of establishing your identity, and as a way of demonstrating that your language, your culture can be expressed online.  It is in many ways simply an extension of yourself.  If you can’t type that domain name into a browser and have that browser accept it, if you can’t use that IDN in email, then really, what use is it for you to have bought it in the first place?

Ram Mohan, Chair, ICANN Universal Acceptance Steering Group

Speaking at the ICANN meeting in Copenhagen (March 2017), Don Hollander and Ram Mohan, the Secretary General and Chair of ICANN’s Universal Acceptance Steering Group talk about its work and its role in supporting linguistic and cultural diversity online.

As we reported in our 2015 study, ICANN’s Universal Acceptance is an industry-led project. While funding support for the project is being provided by ICANN, the work is being done by volunteers in the registry, registrar, software and ISP industry.

‘67% of the world does not use a Latin script based language’ Ram Mohan

Don Hollander, the group’s Secretary General, describes its key objective as ‘Reaching out to CIOs, to developers and system architects and saying the standards have changed’, informing them that domain names can be in any script or language, and that all need to be treated in a consistent manner.  

At a technical level, universal acceptance means that domain names must be accepted, validated, stored, processed and displayed correctly, in whatever language or script. Since 2015, a key focus of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group has been on solving the issues surrounding internationalised email. The group recognizes that it is crucial to involve the biggest vendors and providers of email software and services.

This rather dry technical work will enable a blossoming of linguistic diversity online.  Ram Mohan, Chair of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group, speaks passionately about universal acceptance as essential, ‘to bring the wide, varied world of domain names to life, in applications, in browsers, in every context that human beings interact with technology.’

‘People are going to use’ IDNs Don Hollander

Ram highlights the practical and emotional necessity of giving online expression to the 67% of the world does not use a Latin script based language.  Universal acceptance is an essential prerequisite, without which people will not be able to freely express themselves, demonstrate their identity online, create content and have confidence that it can be ‘accessed from a mobile phone, a tablet, even the side of a bus – all these things require universal acceptance’, says Ram Mohan.

The World Report on IDNs will continue to monitor closely the important work of the ICANN Universal Acceptance Steering Group, and report on its achievements to our readerships.

‘People just need to recognise that these new names are there. People are going to use them’, says Don Hollander.