The .ae Domain Administration (.aeDA) was established in 2007 by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) as a department, regulatory body, and registry operator for .ae, the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) for United Arab Emirates (UAE). aeDA is responsible for setting and enforcement of all policies regarding the operation of the .ae ccTLD, and for overseeing the operation of the country’s registry system.

When aeDA was first established, the registration of .ae domains was a manual process, which took at least 1 day to complete. The newly established registry implemented a liberalisation strategy. Registration policies were relaxed (“no signature, no documentation, no local presence required”), over 20 registrars have been accredited, and the registration process has now been automated so that domains can be in use within 2 minutes of placing an order. To support the liberalised registration system, a dispute resolution service has been implemented, operated by WIPO and closely modelled on the UDRP (the ICANN policy for handling disputes in .com and other generic Top Level Domains).

The registry has also conducted a sustained outreach programme, for example celebrating high profile users of .ae domain names, and using the Twitter hashtag #yes2ae. aeDA engages with its accredited registrars regularly in order to gain feedback on improving its service levels and customer satisfaction.

These changes have resulted in significant uplift in the number of ASCII domain names registered. At the end of 2013, the .ae TLD had over 112 000 registered domain names. The uplift has not been felt in the .امارات IDN namespace, where there are only 2 200 registrations. The registry has been offering registrations in the IDN since 2010.

The registry operator reports that the UAE experienced a typical IDN launch cycle along with a marketing campaign. User and registrar awareness of the IDN have been difficult to build. In addition, there was some confusion over how a native IDN was supposed to work with the more traditional ASCII names. It proved to be difficult to convince people that the IDN reflected an alternative way to reach Internet destinations.

Another barrier for the UAE IDN was poor support for Arabic in applications. Customers of the registry found that, if they typed a UAE IDN into a browser, the application converted it to Punycode. That translation of characters was viewed by some consumers as unexpected and possibly unwelcome behaviour by the browser.

However, the registry also found barriers in the ISP and hosting industry. If a customer had registered an IDN and wanted to use in for a website, the ISP or web hosting company had to know how to deploy the IDN. Early adopters found that the ISPs and infrastructure providers in the UAE were not yet prepared for the new development.

The registry reports that initiatives are underway to both improve the consumer view of the IDN as well as to help educate the Internet infrastructure industry on its use.

Previously Published in World Report on Internationalised Domain Names, 2014