From 1995 to 2006 the Saudi ccTLD (.sa) was operated by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. In 2006, responsibility for the ccTLD was transitioned to SaudiNIC under the control of the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC).

All of SaudiNic’s services are offered and accessed electronically through its web portal. Most services are implemented automatically (without human interaction). The registry informs us that where certain services require human verification, such processes can be performed within 30 min (if the request is received within working business hours).

SaudiNIC does not operate a registry-registrar model. Nevertheless, numerous registrars offer Saudi domain names. However, retail prices are high (even though the registry charges no fee). SaudiNIC informs us that most registrants prefer to register their domain names directly with SaudiNIC, so the registrar price is unlikely to affect local registrants (which represents the majority of its customers).

In previous report, we have noted that the Saudi IDN domain, .السعودية , had seen substantial growth rates in annual percentage terms. In December 2013, the number of registrations in .sa was 31 604 (an annual growth rate of 5% since December 2012), and the number of registrations in the Saudi IDN domain was 1 939 (an annual growth rate of 8% since December 2012).

SaudiNIC continues to be an important advocate for the Saudi IDN domain, .السعودية, and has this year conducted extensive research on universal acceptance of Arabic domain names in popular applications and browsers. SaudiNIC has also built a working model of an IDN email system which sends and receives Arabic email addresses. In response to the question “what single change would improve uptake of IDNs?” SaudiNIC told us “Support native IDN at the network layer (not as a hack on the application layer)”.

Since last year’s report, SaudiNIC has implemented a variant management scheme within the Saudi domains, and reports that, including variants, the number of IDNs under السعودية was 2 327 in May 2014. SaudiNIC is a member of ICANN’s Task Force on Arabic IDNs, which is working on Label Generation Rules for Arabic script Top Level Domains.

Previously Published in World Report on Internationalised Domain Names, 2014