IDNs and New gTLDs: Why Local Languages are the Answer to a Truly Global Internet

29 September 2011 - A Workshop on Critical Internet Resources in Nairobi, Kenya

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Full Session Transcript

September 29, 2011 - 14:30pm


The following is the output of the real-time captioning taken during the Sixth Meeting of the IGF, in Nairobi, Kenya. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.


>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Good afternoon, everybody.  My name is Chris Disspain.  I'm the CEO and manager of .auDA.  This is basically an introduction and discussion on the findings of this report on IDNs and language.  We've got a distinguished panel of contributors, one of whom is currently missing, but that's all right.  Still distinguished, even though missing. 

On my far left is Chuck Gomes from VeriSign.  Next is Indrajit Banerjee from UNESCO.  As they would say in the movies, playing the part of Giovanni, here is Emily Taylor, involved perhaps as a consultant in the area.  Our missing panelist who will hopefully be with us shortly is Ram Mohan, who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Afilias.

So I thought we would start by asking, from UNESCO, given that it's UNESCO kind of document, to ‑‑ or was involved in the document, rather, to give us an overview.  To you.

>> RAM MOHAN:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, dear colleagues, it's a pleasure to be here on a subject of great importance for UNESCO, as you know.  And UNESCO, of course, looks at the issue of linguistic and diversity from various angles but I think most interesting, UNESCO's presented, I think it is very evident that we're going for much more than information.  In that knowledge, society's concept, one of the four pillars of the knowledge society's concept is linguistic and cultural diversity, and obviously to many people, they wonder why we put that as a base for knowledge societies you, and the reason being that in UNESCO's experience, as you know, our main mandate is to build peace in the minds of men, a lot of work in peace and reconciliation actually goes through understanding diversity and promoting and celebrating both linguistic and cultural diversity, and we think this is an essential ingredient of any knowledge society.

Some very alarming statistics are appearing these days, and it is absolutely evident that language needs to be preserved, maintained and promoted.  For example, if nothing is done, half of the 6,000‑plus languages which are spoken today will disappear by the end of the century.  In 2008 it was estimated that 12 languages only accounted for 98% of Internet web pages.  English was 72% of web pages, still the dominant language online.  So in many ways, multilingualism and in cyberspace is a essential ingredient of UNESCO's work, our work is focused in the following areas. 

Preservation of endangered languages including indigenous languages, promotion of the use of mother tongue in education, again, a very critical issue which UNESCO has been dealing with for many years, promotion of languages in media, mainly public service broadcasting on the Internet be and here we are doing quite a lot of significant work in measuring linguistic diversity in cyberspace as an ongoing project which we'll be happy to share with you, promoting development of local content in multiple languages, again, here we have a report which we'll be presenting at a plenary session tomorrow which shows you the connections between the availability of local language content and cost of access.  In other words, the more there is local language content on the Internet, the cheaper seems to be the access, and this should in itself provide a very strong argument to Governments and Member States to promote multilingualism in cyberspace and last but not least, we provide assistance to Member States in the formulation of comprehensive language policies including multilingualism in cyberspace and building capacities. 

I would like to conclude because I think a lot of the focus should be on this report that has been presented in this panel, I think it's a very useful and timely report but it's still work in progress in the sense that I think there are many aspects of the report which can be enhanced, can be dealt with in greater depth, but I would like to point out to you one of the most fundamental elements of UNESCO's work in this area, which is the UNESCO recommendation concerning the promotion and use of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace. 

I would strongly recommend you go to the website and check out the recommendation because this recommendation guides to a great extent our 193 member countries in their policies in the area of language.

We recently received as established by general conference the second consolidated report on the measures taken by the Member States, 193 Member States, in terms of progress made, this recommendation.  Let me remind you, in UNESCO when you talk about a recommendation, it means that it is to a great extent a binding instrument so Member States are obliged to report to us what they have done to promote the use of multilingualism and universal access in cyberspace.  Some Member States reported on their progress on their experience in the experience of IDN and is new gTLDs, Egypt and Jordan reported successful experience in launching the domain names using Arabic letters.  Measures were taken to provide the use of letters of the domain names.  This is to give you a brief review of what UNESCO does which also might provide the context of the report which my fellow panelists will provide.  Thank you.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thank you.  Just briefly, you've been involved in this area, UNESCO has been involved in this area and it's been measuring multilingualism online, presumably, for quite considerable time since the Internet became ‑‑ was started.  What influence do you think that the introduction of IDNs has had or is going to have on the work of UNESCO?

>> INDRAJIT BANERJEE:  Well, that's a rather complex question, Mr. Chairman, but in my view, I think it is going to have a huge impact, as this report will show to some extent, as the reports from Member States come in, we are noticing that this new arrangement that ICANN is promoting is an extremely positive step forward, but I think this alone is not enough, in my view.  I think we have to pursue our strategy, we should talk to our Member States, we should ensure that there are incentives for people to use these domain names and the most important thing which UNESCO is grappling with is content in local languages because the relevance of content in local languages is the key.  You might have domain names and so on, but how relevant is this content to the citizens of any country?  So I think it's the right thing to do, it's the right step forward, but it has to be accompanied by many other measures.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Okay.  So what we currently have is a number of IDN CC top‑level domain names that have been around for a number of years, and what we're about to have in the near future is a generic domains, a number of which will be IDNs, so I wanted to take a look at the status of that and talk about what's likely to happen and change with the introduction of IDN gTLDs, and also to talk about some of the other ‑‑ some of the things that tend to get forgotten because how wonderful it is that we have websites that are in all sorts of languages and scripts and how magnificent that you can have your domain name in Arabic or Cyrillic, but for the moment you can't send e‑mail using internationalized domain names. 

Chuck, could I ask you to address the issue of e‑mail and secondly your thoughts on the likely impact of the introduction of new IDN gTLDs, as a sort of provider of the backbone and facilitator, if you like, of that?

>> CHUCK GOMES:  Sure, Chris.  Let me start off by complimenting you on that report, I thought it was a very good report, and it I think not only gives a lot of good data in it but sets a foundation for future study and research, so I compliment you on that.

IDN TLDs.  Let me go back to the year 2000 when we introduced our IDN test bed in dot com, dot net and at that time dot org, and, I mean, it was obvious from the beginning that we had no control over that, that users really wanted a full IDN experience with regard to domain names, they didn't want a Chinese second level domain dot com and ASCII, and those of you that aren't native English speakers can relate to that, so we have been waiting and more importantly the registrants of domain names in the gTLD world have been waiting for 11 years to get, and really longer than that, but to get a full IDN experience, so I think it will have significant impact, but as you indicated, and as you indicated as well, it's not just domain names in IDN script, both second level, top level, even third levels, et cetera, that are really needed.

You mentioned e‑mail.  We haven't had e‑mail to this day that accommodates the IDNs, IDN domain names so the ITF, and Ram can speak to this better than I can, but the ITF has been working on e‑mail standard for a long time.  I'm hearing ‑‑ and Ram may be able to add some light on this ‑‑ that we may see a standard in 2012, that would be great, because probably everybody in this room knows how important e‑mail is, so that would be a complement to that.

A second thing, as far as the impact is not only determined, ICANN has made the decision that we'll introduce IDN TLDs, it's already happening in the ccTLD world, it will happen in the gTLD world, it will happen with the new gTLD world, but there's more, there hasn't been a lot of adoption by browser manufacturers in the IDNA 2008 revised standard that was approved, that's important too, there will be some holes there until the browser manufacturers implement that, so there are a variety of factors that will affect that.  I think in the long‑term, it will be huge.  Are we going to see that impact immediately?  Probably not.  We'll see degrees of it, of the impact, and then appears the browsers are updated to the latest standard, as e‑mail comes on board and that may happen sooner than some of the browsers, we don't know, but there will be part of the problem solved with these Chris thanks.  Chuck, Ram, I think you can probably ‑‑

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thanks.  Thanks, Chuck. 

Ram, I think you can probably comment on some of the aspects Chuck has been talking about.

>> RAM MOHAN:  Sure.  Just to expand a little bit and perhaps take it at a different level, I think the fundamental issue here is about uniformity of user experience.  IDNs are kind of the gateway.  The internationalized domain name merely gets you off the ground, but the uniformity of user experience is really where it's lacking.  And you look at e‑mail, browsers, search engines, yesterday there was a panel where he we heard that if you type in an IDN URL in Facebook or Twitter, it does not automatically convert it into a web link because they don't recognize ‑‑ because they don't recognize an IDN domain name as a URL, right?  So that kind of acceptance has to happen at the application level.  Now, Chuck and Chris, you were speaking a little bit about e‑mail, much work has actually gone into in the ITF and the standards bodies on making e‑mail actually work completely in local script.  There have been draft implementations by several countries and my company Afilias has a draft implementation as well, we've been participating in those trials since 2007.  In 2009 for the first time, we managed to get e‑mails going, we wrote an e‑mail that was completely in Arabic, written right to left, sent across to folks in China, and it went over the regular Internet, where the entire e‑mail when it hit the DNS, it actually was in the local ‑‑ you know, it was sent across in the local language, so that process is working, and Afilias does have a draft implementation, I think 14 languages implemented that allow for e‑mail to go back and forth.  But the standard is in last call and final call, if you will, inside of the ITF, we expect that it will in a formal process, it will actually become a full‑scale standard in if not this ITF meeting coming up, then ITF meeting right after that, so perhaps early 2012.

While e‑mail is a significant application, the acceptance in very simple everyday uses of the Internet online is I think where the rubber really meets the road.  What I'm talking about is something very simple.  If you wanted to sign up for a free e‑mail account with any free e‑mail provider or an instant messaging account with somebody or perhaps even a Facebook account, in almost every case they will ask you for your e‑mail address, they will send an authentication password or something like that, and they will send it to your e‑mail address.

Try typing in just a normal e‑mail address but make it an IDN top‑level domain and an IDN second level domain, so what I'm saying is, even if your e‑mail address was in ASCII, if your name was in ASCII, so it's ASCII@, and you type something in a local language, dot local language, you will find at least in our labs we found in 2010, we found over 75% of the most commonly used applications online.  The user registration forms, which is really your way to start using these services, do not support IDNs.  Right?  So there's some level of work that has to be done.  So the that's on the deep technical and accessibility end of it.

The other interesting phenomenon that I think is likely to happen, Chris, to your other question about what do you think is going to happen with IDN TLDs, I think IDNs provide a unique hard‑to‑misspell gateway to local resources in local languages.  If you look at even the world "India," you would think that it's easy to spell, it's just five letters in English, it's relatively easy to spell.  I can't tell you the number of various spellings that have come through based on, you know, the way people hear the word.  I speak Tamil, speak the word in Tamil, it's India, you may insert an extra E, two EE's to represent the I.

However, if it was in IDN and in the local language, everybody knows there is just one way to do it.  So I think that misspelling and that level of confusion will go away with IDNs coming from.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  I just want to go back to that e‑mail.  So it's an e‑mail completely in Arabic?

>> RAM MOHAN:  Yes.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Including the address?

>> RAM MOHAN:  Yes Chris sent to China?

>> RAM MOHAN:  Yes.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Did they reply or was did it go to their Spam?

>> RAM MOHAN:  They replied, in fact, copied the Koreans and it reached both places.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Wow.  So I've got a couple of ‑‑ there are some things coming out of this, but before I address those, I wanted to, Emily, ask you what you think Giovanni would say if he were here now.

>> EMILY TAYLOR:  Yes, I'll do my best to channel Giovanni.  I think that there were several things that caused to want to look further into IDN, but one of the main sort of impetuses was the difficulty about measuring the presence of local language online, it sounds like it should be fairly straightforward but in fact it is incredibly difficult partly because search engines only capture a percentage, 50% is one estimate, of the content.  But also you may be looking at web pages but there's no really robust methodology at the moment to capture e‑mail, the presence of e‑mail, there's all sorts of privacy concerns in doing so and then forget about chat and instant messaging and all of that.  So when we talk about Internet use, there are multiple ways of doing it.

We've been hearing, you know, very loose descriptions from Chuck and from Ram about how IDNs are not ‑‑ you know, there's not sliced bread or the silver bullet that's going to suddenly magically overnight create a full multilingual Internet, but I think of them in terms of being a catalyst, that without the whole chemical reaction that is necessary to enhance multilingualism online, it can't be done.  But we knew that there was existing implementation, as Chuck said so rightly, IDNs have been with us for ten years, and there's probably a million dot com IDNs and there are also a number of European ccTLD's and ccTLDs outside of Europe that have implemented IDN so we just wanted to see what the data told us and one of the things I found particularly interesting about the data was that ‑‑ and the example that you used illustrates this, that local registries with the country codes will tend to implement only the characters that support their local languages.

Now, obviously this isn't a devastatingly surprising finding, but it leads us along an interesting line of inquiry, because if you are looking for the presence of a particular language online, then maybe a good way in might be through the IDNs that exist because I think there's a reasonable assumption that if you have gone to the trouble, and it is a trouble at the moment to register your IDN in your local language, that it might well be supporting that language.

So it might be a nice focus thing to enhance UNESCO's inquiries, not to replace what you're doing, not in any way to say what you're doing is wrong, but it just might add an extra dimension, an extra focus.  And as all of the speakers have highlighted, it's one of these things in life the closer you get to where you want to be, the more frustrating the gap is, and   as Chuck said, to have IDNs at the second level was almost worse for many people than not, because it highlights in a particularly right to left script, just the torture of finding a resource on the Internet, having to change your keyboard language halfway through typing a domain, be muddled up about what's the top level and second level and where all the hierarchy is, and the examples that we found in particularly the launch of dot RF, the Russian Federation domain, which proved enormously popular, it had a great big launch with over 500,000 registrations in the first month, and we also learned from a registrar in Russia that users, you know, again, who is surprised by this, users in Russia love it because they're not making the misspellings, they're not getting lost, they find it easy to operate with a domain that speaks their language.

And I'm looking forward to the next years.  We're hoping to make this an annual study because one of the things that hampered ‑‑ not hampered our research, but one of the things we were very excited about doing was to report the experiences of the Egyptians and others who were so caught up with events in their country that it was very difficult to capture that data, and in many cases, it delayed their launch for very understandable and very excellent reasons.  But we're hoping that next year we can expand on this, expand on the number of domains that we're looking at, and also I hope maybe to start to touch on that linkage with content because I think then we would start to get to a very interesting story.  Thank you.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thanks, Emily.  I want to take a couple of the points that have been raised and drill down a little bit.  Ram, you talked about application forms that you're filling out to get an e‑mail address or whatever.  And then not accepting IDNs.  So whose responsibility, whose responsibility is it to cajole, persuade, inform, force perhaps this to occur?  Let's start perhaps with UNESCO's view, because while it may not be your responsibility, I assume you believe you play a role in doing that.

>> INDRAJIT BANERJEE:  Well, I think it's definitely not in UNESCO's area of expertise or competence, but I think what we would do and some of the comments that were made, is we would like to ensure that all steps are taken by the players concerned, and UNESCO has that power with 193 countries, that all steps are taken to facilitate whatever technical means are used to ensure that this doesn't become a problem in the promotion of multilingualism in cyberspace.  If it this becomes an obstacle that hampers the implementation, and I can share with you many of the comments made by Member States of what were the challenges to promoting multilingualism in their reports to us, then if this obstacle becomes such that we feel that we would not be able to go ahead with multilingualism in cyberspace and languages keep on dying, as I said, at the end of the century, half of the 6,000 languages that exist, we will use all our community power to ensure that Member States put pressure on the organizations concerned, especially the technical people, to get this done, and the point is that UNESCO will not stand for anything, anything, unless it's in some multitechnical problem, which I understand it isn't, that would hamper us from promoting languages and linguistic and cultural diversity.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Okay.  So Chuck, you have a level of ‑‑ you introduced an IDN, you're running IDN as a registry, and your responsibility stops at that point?  Can you ‑‑

>> CHUCK GOMES:  No, I don't believe so.  In fact, again, let me use a little history.  When we first did the test bed and then when it evolved into an official program once the first standard was approved, we had the same problem, the applications.  They did not adopt it right away.  So we assumed part of that responsibility.  Now, how much effect did we have?  I don't know.  I mean, we went to the browser manufacturers, for example, and tried to encourage them to update this and so forth, it still took quite a while before they actually did it, and some did it before others.

Same situation now with IDNA 2008 I was talking to someone from Microsoft earlier in the week and we were talking about that and he pointed out what I already knew is that they have some 3,000 products or something, this is just one little one here.  It will come down to a demand issue.  So Emily, you're right that this can be a catalyst, the more names, top level IDN names are registered, that will probably help, they're still going to weigh it in their own business metrics in terms of does the cost ‑‑ are we going to get enough value out of this to do it.  So absolutely I think we have a responsibility to try and encourage the application makers to implement the new standards, but it will be all of us really, it will be a community effort to make that happen.

>> RAM MOHAN:  So let me makes perhaps a provocative prediction.  You were saying if you do nothing, you know, 50% of the 6,000 languages may go away.  I think it's actually perhaps even more dire than that, because if you look at the current state of affairs and you look at what I think is general apathy from the application market to implement the multilingual pieces into their applications, I predict that in five or ten years' time, we may only have 40 or 50 languages that are actually universally accessible wherever you go in the world, and I think a lot of that will be because there is not an initiative to actually help move this forward.  We can depend upon market demand to drive some of it and that market demand I think is what will get us to 50 or 60 languages or scripts.  But beyond that, what is the real reason for someone in India to implement a special set of code that affects just one language that has, relatively speaking, only 6 million people speaking it, right, when the opportunity cost is far greater, I could instead take the same amount of effort and I could address 40 million people in another language, right?

So I think therefore there are two problems here, Chris.  One is there is no single body or single organization that can actually turn the key and get this engine rolling, and because of that, each one of us in our little piece do the best we can.  You look at why did we even begin doing an IDN e‑mail implementation?  It was because we were very frustrated and we had users coming up and saying, I've got the IDN domain name, but I can't really do the most important thing I do with it, which is e‑mail.  Right?  But I'll say this, we have this program out, we've been inviting individuals and universities and companies to go partner with us, we're giving away the service for free, and there is very little traction on a global basis because you are one small organization and getting that level of interest is a pretty daunting task.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  I just want to push back on that for a second.  Is it an extraordinarily naive view for me to say the plus side to that could be e‑mail works, browsers work, the plus side is that those language communities thats are not actually being catered for simply create their own, their own applications that cater for their language and/or their script and actually become sort of self‑sufficient, if you will, and build on that, or is that just like ridiculous?

>> RAM MOHAN:  No, I don't think it's ridiculous, I think there will be some cases where it will happen, but there are many of the cases where the infrastructure, the knowledge necessary to actually deploy those kinds of solutions is far more concentrated.  Chuck was talking about IDNA 2008.  If you talk about that to a normal audience, even a normal technical audience, they wouldn't know what to do or where to get started, so it's possible in some cases that the language communities will self‑organize and will build something, but I fear that in more cases they just won't know where to go, the resources are not apparent, the tool kits don't exist, and therefore, they may end up going directly to using their mobile phones which do support the local language and, you know, doing SMS's or the next generation of SMS because that does support local languages far better than what the wired Internet, if you will, does.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thank you, which actually brings me to my next question, and I want to make a leap for a moment.  I want to assume that all of the vision of UNESCO on having ‑‑ the contribution that IDNs can make to fulfilling your vision is on the way to happening, things are happening out there, languages are being, IDNs are being registered, both gTLDs and ccTLDs and so on, I think those of us who have been involved in this for a long time understand that a significant proportion of users of IDNs will be using them on their mobile phones.  They'll be using them, I mean, China and India being the two largest markets, if you will.  So sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.  It would be interesting, I think, to just skate over perhaps some of the issues that are going to arise precisely because IDNs are being used on mobile phones rather than being used on computers.  There obviously are security issues that arise because of that, and again, not only we may be in the situation where not only do we have to actually cajole, persuade, force, whatever, people to do the applications, et cetera, there's also going to have to be a massive training exercise on how to use the technology now that people have access to it linguistically.  Chuck, do you have any comment on that?

>> CHUCK GOMES:  Well, you're on a good track, and it is one that is going to be very important because in the least developed parts of the world, you know, how are they accessing the Internet?  Most of them by mobile.  Now, one of the things, let's just talk about IDN domain names.  In the DNS and IDN domain name is the nonsensical string that starts with XN dash dash and a whole bunch of characters after it, they're going to be longer names.  Now, when they're translated into the local script, it shouldn't be that long, but those kind of issues are going to be issues that we're going to confront.  Another issue, and this relates to mobile, it relates to other forms of communication, a tool that all of us have used over and over again is Who Is.  Who Is is an archaic protocol and doesn't do a good job of accommodating ‑‑ maybe it's more accurate to say it doesn't accommodate IDNs at all.  Is work going on in that?  Yes, but it's work coming very slow.  So a lot of those issues, being able to go to Who Is, and what are you going to see?  Are you going to see XN dash dash and some meaningless string of characters?  The average user, most of us wouldn't know what it meant without looking it up somewhere.  So there are some real issues there to be worked.


>> EMILY TAYLOR:  I just wanted to talk about, you know, the thread that we've been going on about the necessity for the software tools, the wherewithal to create local language content, and of course a lot of local content or a lot of contents, user‑created content, is now being created on social networks, and I was on a panel with someone from Facebook the other day and they were describing the way that they have approached getting their multilingualism sorted, which is to use users as the translators of not only the content but the framework itself and to set up a process where the bulk of the work is done locally by amateurs, if you like, but people who are expert in the language because they speak it, and also, of course, the whole thing of creating an interface in your own local language is not as simple as just a straight like‑for‑like translation, it is also what is also culturally appropriate for you or meaningful in those labels, so that seemed to me to be a very hopeful and effective way of mobilizing the speakers of smaller languages.

But of course, you know, we can talk about endangered languages, and that is, of course, a real problem.  But we're not talking about endangered languages, we're not even at the endangered languages, we're not properly supporting Arabic, Chinese script, hugely popular languages at the moment.  So that was what I wanted to talk about.  You know, the impetus for Facebook is noncommercial in terms of their users and the users' impetus is noncommercial.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Indrajit.

>> INDRAJIT BANERJEE:  From a nontechnical perspective, by the way, we have an extremely interesting document which is called the endangered languages atlas which you can find on the website, and I think this is a very powerful tool to create awareness of how bad the situation is.  As Ram said, it's worse than studies actually reveal.  But I think when we assess this issue of multilingualism, so many other problems, I mean, language and politics go hand in hand.  That's one huge issue.  The awareness and willingness and commitment of Member States themselves often, because they lack resources or often because of political reasons, often because some languages are privileged to others, I mean, so UNESCO is looking at it from a policy angle, and from what I can gather, it will not be any single player who is going to solve this problem.  And our role here will be very much to, as a convening authority, as an authority which could provide policy tools and guidelines, other technical bodies could provide technical tools and guidelines, so I think you have to have ‑‑ number 1 you have to understand the direness of the situation and number 2, you have to understand how critically important it is to provide multilingualism in cyberspace, it's not just let's have more languages on the net, and number 3, create a coalition of players, of the most important players, including you, Mr. Chairman, ICANN and other players, to see what should be done as a prospective approach.  Most of the time these issues are discussed by technical people, it doesn't reach the policymakers who say get the job done, I don't care how you get it done, I want these languages to be in cyberspace.  In India, even the situation where scripts have been developed in Indian languages outside of India, and saying we won't accept this, we want to develop our own, people have taken this, a good example, developed by people in Singapore, Malaysia, it's far more than just a technical issue, I'm trying to emphasize.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  I'm really glad you said that because that gives us the opportunity to say it's not all our fault, and there's only so much that we can do.

Ram, did you want to talk about the ‑‑ briefly just talk about issues arising, some security stuff and the challenges that exist there?  Because you were nodding at me when I was saying it, so I assumed that meant you agreed with me.  You may not.

>> RAM MOHAN:  Although there's a well‑known thing about Indians and the way they nod, sometimes you nod yes and you really mean no.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  You're part of the culture.

>> RAM MOHAN:  There you go.


>> RAM MOHAN:  Two things, Chris.  IDNs by themselves I don't think are going to create some significant new security ‑‑ set of security problems.  The kinds of issues that exist with the Internet today and the domain name system today are likely to just expand and transfer over.

I do see some ‑‑ I have some concern about the blurring of the lines between a well identified country code top‑level domain versus a noncountry code top‑level domain.  That line is blurring because in the past, and it's an accident of history, we used to have kind of a clear rule that in ASCII, two‑letter codes automatically meant there was a countries and greater than two‑letter codes meant it was something else, not a country, right?  But that line is blurring, so there's some possibility that down the road, you know, someone getting an e‑mail or someone looking at a resource may not automatically recognize that this is actually run inside a country or by a country, so there might be a little bit of confusion there.  But I think by and large, the core security issues run at a perhaps simpler level.  They run at exploiting technical weaknesses, and more and more, exploiting social weaknesses.  It's far easier to come and hack you by, you know, calling up your organization and trying to fake somebody or to say, you know, I'm with Chris here, his phone has run out of power and he's asked me to call, and he has forgotten his password for his thing, and you will find in many places if I can provide reasonable data about you, which I can extract from your IDN Facebook page, I might be able to convince somebody, right?

So I think core security issues, I doubt we're going to have brand‑new ones.

To the earlier comments about, you know, that UNESCO is making about what we can do to pull it together, and Emily, you were speaking as well, I have a proposal to make.  I think what we need, especially in the area of multilingualism and expanding that, you know, this workshop theme is local languages are the answer to moving it forward, and I agree with you, IDNs are a catalyst, but what we need is what I call an IDN technology commons.  We don't have that.  And that's something that brings in organizations from industry, both verticals as well as from horizontals, that bring those resources and tools, et cetera, and make them available for common shared use.  We desperately need that if we want to preserve and continue to let languages come online and thrive online, because with a common set of shared technologies, and if you have an IDN technology commons, then the scenario you were presenting, Chris, of a local language community self‑organizing becomes very viable because you have a commons that you can depend upon.

Today because IDN technology commons does not exist, you have a starting stumbling block.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Okay.  Let me pursue that for a little bit further then.  Who would start that, and who would be in charge of it?  So who would be the catalyst for that?  Then when Ram has answered that question, which we doubt he'll have an immediate answer to, we'll go out and see if anybody has any questions or comments to make, because we're really interested what your comments are.

>> RAM MOHAN:  My answer was going to be that we should ask UNESCO.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  I was kind of hoping that's what you might say.

>> INDRAJIT BANERJEE:  On a lighter side, I recently read a BBC report that some linguist he discovered a language in India, a new language, which nobody knew about, so let's hope that that keeps happening, too.  But I mean, if 28 people speak a language, I'm not sure they have a very bright future.


>> INDRAJIT BANERJEE:  Although we know that they exist.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  So you've heard us talking about IDNs and the future and so on.  Who would like to kick off with ‑‑ how are we doing with this?  Oh, you've got one in front of you.  I'm sorry.  Could you also tell us who you are and where you're from?

>> My name is ‑‑ I'm speaking for a small human rights and advocacy group, and I wanted to point out that assist we move into this area, which is, of course, extremely important from a human dignity perspective, I don't need to tell you about that, we must really think about debugging.

I have a technical background and I have debugged a lot of mail problems, even with everything in ASCII, that can be challenging, shudder at the thought of having to debug a mail problem which uses scripts that I cannot even copy correctly.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thank you.  Anybody on the panel want to comment on that?  I do understand the issue, but I am completely technically incompetent, so I can't.  Did you have your hand up?  It looked like it to me.  Go ahead and say what you want.

>> Thank you very much, Chris, I would like to thank UNESCO for this excellent report.  It show cases the current growth and current implementations of IDNs, sorry, I didn't introduce myself.  My name is Mohamed El Bashir, running a IDN ccTLD industry, country code in Arabic, Qatar, we're one of the first operations running currently, this is a very good report to show us the progress, I think we need to have more research in two areas in the future regarding IDNs.  The first one is how the native users using IDNs to access information resources, how that changes their current patterns of access for Arabic Internet users, how are the IDNs really changing how they access information, that's one area we need to do research.

The second area I think we need to also work on and he evaluate also the impact of IDNs in terms of content development really.  There are lots of series of how IDN ccTLDs are encouraging development but we don't have really solid research done on that, so I think these are the two areas we need to have more work on.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Is the category live?

>> Currently we are in sunrise period, we'll go live 18 October.  I can say the figures are less than 100 domains in one month, most of them reach out to Government entities, there is demand, we did some research, there is demand locally, we can see people are interested to get their names, because it's more meaningful to them as well.  But we have initially some research about what their preference is, for example, because Arabic was one of the languages not abbreviation friendly, for example.  So most of the users they prefer short user names and that's currently most of the demand we're seeing, people asking about that.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Can I ask you one other question, which is, do you think that you as the ccTLD manager or the Government will need to involve itself in that sort of persuading the application providers to provide the ability to interface with those in Arabic?

>> We have to do that.  I can tell you one example, for example.  Browsers.  We have to contact Mozilla to ensure that the new TLD string, in Arabic is already included in their list, their mechanism that they add IDNs to enable an IDN string to be working on the browsers, just to have a wide list, so we have to reach out to them, send a bug request, fix it, and we went through the process.  Other browser vendor that was proactive more, once they have seen ICANN is delegated the IDN string in the root, they included that in the update of the browser, we have to reach out and talk to those guys also we're trying to reach out to Twitter, and the community is doing that, by the way, currently there's a community of good bloggers and Twitter who are trying to ensure that Arabic language we have a better support within Twitter, for example.

>> My name is Andrew Mack, I'm from Washington, D.C. and I thought the conversation so far has been really really interesting.  It strikes me that there are maybe two functions of language, if you will, that play into this pretty importantly, because as I was listening to you talk about the UNESCO perspective on this, one function of language is an intercommunity kind of, you know, a trade or a communication between me and people that I might not necessarily know, and without question, Ram torques your point, there is going to be a shrinking number of those because as people become more interconnected, it stands to reason, I'm on Skype with people from 15 different countries every day practically, you know, so I think that some of that is organic and some of that is to be expected and maybe even some of that is acceptable.  However, there's the second function of language, which is the function of identity, right, and of history and of culture and I think we would all be poorer if we lose that.  There's obviously always some ebb and flow, there are new languages, if you think of computer languages, there are new languages being created every day and variances of languages, but it comes down to it strikes me you're fighting a losing balance on the language preservation side unless we can find some link‑up with funding, some link‑up with some sort of a market mechanism or market funding because otherwise it's like an archive.  I know Chuck you're thinking, about this, and I know you're thinking about this from the UNESCO perspective, how can we get there recognizing there's not probably a market for every language and that maybe some of them are going to go into archive, what's the best thing we can do?

>> CHUCK GOMES:  Well, especially in the last couple years of the new TLD process, one of the things we started talking about is what I think you're talking about, underserved languages communities, and if we just analyze that with the cost of applying for a new gTLD under the new model, the first gTLDs, it's very expensive, let me get personal with VeriSign, we're going to apply for versions of IDN top‑level domains, but it will cost us $185,000 each plus any dispute fees that are there, et cetera, to do it for each one.

Well, which ones are we going to pick?  You know, we obviously have to make a business case to our shareholders, et cetera, and we're going to pick the ones where there's demand.  Well, it really wouldn't take us very much to offer IDN TLD versions of dot com in just about any script, even if it didn't have demand for it, but it's pretty hard to justify spending three, $400,000 doing that in a very small market.

Is so one of the things we suggested, so far we haven't seen any action on that, was the ability, especially for underserved languages, to bundle ‑‑ some people don't like that term ‑‑ so I apologize if you're one of those, some multiple IDN versions of, say, dot com, say thing that happened for a new gTLD, dot bank, if the applicant for dot bank, if there is one, could also offer some IDN versions for the same ASCII string or another IDN string, it doesn't matter, for minimal additional cost, it would encourage that particular activity and I think really help the underserved language communities.

>> INDRAJIT BANERJEE:  Thank you for the point.  It's obvious that it happened even with the television markets long before the Internet came, the small language groups, cost of production was too high given the number of people consuming this, advertisers are not interested, this is how a lot of the countries even in Asia have been suffering in terms of languages and the media.  But you see, our approach is this.  That the shadow of the market will always loom on these issues, I mean, told we don't talk about culture, we talk about cultural industries, that's how far we've gone and without funding, protecting and promoting any culture becomes a real issue.  But we are going to release a report which we joined with ISOC where we showed the availability of content reduces cost of access, okay, the more the local language content, there's more incentive and use of that contents and the cost becomes less.

Now, if you've got various, if people are speaking a language, I don't know what media services we could really provide them, even radio would be a hard sell, so UNESCO's approach is this, that as a principal we have a Convention, as I mentioned, which moments multilingualism in cyberspace, of course we moment multilingualism out of cyberspace, too, in reality, but a lot of our work resides in advocacy, explaining to governmentses the importance of language, how preservation of cultural heritage inevitably passes through.

(stand by)

>> At the second level, we haven't solved the right to left problem, either.  Of course, they're doing it for the original protocol, the standard but not yet for the most part from the new standard.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Everybody wants to answer your question, Emily, Ram, Indrajit.

>> EMILY TAYLOR:  I can do the sort of ignorant non‑techy answer, which that I don't think country ‑‑

(stand by)

>> We have different variance, how do you work it out, because eventually if they are successful to come to a point where one would say how is this more superior.

>> So I guess the simple answer to the variant question is if in your local language, if a word has one or more variance associated with it, in the domain name system, each one of those words are unique and are considered independent and individual, right?  But if the community believes that one is identical to the other and that's therefore called a variant, right, we need technological ways to make them up, make them a bundle and make them available and whether a variant is accessible live or not in each locale, each registry will make a decision based on what the community needs but the winners on variance is all the people, all the people who actually use, you know, that language because they recognize a word written multiple ways and the responsibility I think from the supply size is that is that all those various ways take to you the same place.

>> Thank you, Chris, my name is Natima, I'm from Senegal, I wanted to make a point how we can use the IDN inside Africa where there are many people who are considered to be illiterate because they don't read and write in the official language, for example, French in, but many people know how to read and write in Arabic, so I think, Mohamed, you might be interested in West African countries in extending IDNs in Arabic scripts because they know how to read and write in Arabic script but French is a problem, and it's a problem because we have a very high illiteracy rate when it comes to French for adults, mainly, and of course women.  That's the contribution I wanted to make.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thank you.  Chuck?

>> CHUCK GOMES:  Sure.  You know, you raise a really, really important point.  We often think of languages in a national context, but you've just illustrated that it's more than that, and that's very important for us to keep in mind as we're working through the issues that we encounter.

>> If I may add something.  The local languages we're using, like Wolof, people who are not Arabic, they use the Arabic, express in Wolof, they use to communicate with themselves, again, it can be local but they're still using another language, other scripts which are not Latin. 

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thank you.  We're coming up to sort of the last ten minutes, and unless anyone else has a question, oh, yes, sir.

>> Hi.  My name is Immanuel ‑‑ I'm from Niue in the Pacific Islands, and unfortunately, I'm of the dying language.  Already it's been indicated by UNESCO, because of our population, we only have 1,200 people, that's only 1,200 people living on the island of Niue, 20,000 of them live outside of the island, so as you can see we have a problem, and the majority of our children who are born of this age do not speak the ‑‑ the first language, I'm happy to be here and learn all these things and go home and do hard work lobbying for our people and Government to do some serious jobs and just as of last night I was talking to Saneil (phonetic), some of you may know, because I was trying to ask him to get me a developer who can write some apps for games so that children can use the language in the Niuen language, because these days it's quite frustrating to get children to learn the local language, so perhaps I'm looking in terms of using the applications that children want to use to learn the language at the same time.  Thank you.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thank you very much.  Excellent point, which actually ties in quite nicely with my sort of last question, and I'll start with you, Indrajit, it's five years' time, and I'm assuming everything is looking well, I'm looking at positive's, not negative's, how do we look in the world from your point of view from the point of introduction of IDN for multilingualism?

>> INDRAJIT BANERJEE:  Well, that's a trick question to a certain extent, but as I am an optimist, I would say like our friend from the Pacific I think one of the solutions to your problem, the way I would look at the growth and continuity of languages in the world is that other people from outside the community learn the language, already the world is a much more multilingual place, more people speak more languages than any other point before my children speak already four languages, so I'm hoping that this trend of learning languages but not those languages which offer economic opportunities or mainstream dominant languages changes at some point, some incentives can be provided so that people also learn languages that are not thriving.  My second point, which also relates to something that you said is if that is the case, if you have a community of 1200 people, I think you should lobby UNESCO very hard to promote and preserve your language and do everything possible that in the eventuality that it disappears with the next generations that it is well preserved and all its richness is preserved.  Chris Chuck?

>> CHUCK GOMES:  Thanks, Chris.  I think five years is a good target, I think we'll really start to see the advantages of IDNs in about five years.  I think that's more than enough time for the application developers to do some really good work, for the communities to get behind the new scripts in domain names and in the content, et cetera, so I really think, you know, that's a good mark to look forward to.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thank you.  Emily?

>> EMILY TAYLOR:  I hope that in five years' time we will have a good number of both ccTLDs and gTLDs in different scripts, that this does prove to be a catalyst not just for application developers but for users to create content and also that we start to understand better the multilingual landscape that we have because it will enable organizations such as UNESCO that care about language preservation to target their resources more effectively and also to use the Internet in the way that you described, to the benefit of multilingualism, to connect people, the cultures speaking those languages, and also to preserve and, you know, keep available examples of languages or cultures that have died out.

>> RAM MOHAN:  Thank you, Chris.  I think we're in really exciting times, and in many ways, historic times.  We don't recognize it because we're right in the middle of it, but perhaps ten years out we can look back and say, wow, that was amazing to be at this start.  In five years' time, not only I think will there be a thriving set of domain names that are in local languages, but I am very hopeful that there will be an integrated user experience.  That's something that we really need to make progress on, but I expect that for the major languages that are spoken, for the major populations that speak languages, I certainly hope that we will see integrated user experiences in local languages, and the very start, the budding start of thinking about how to share these various technologies in perhaps a commons‑like environment, that allows for languages that are endangered, to begin a new cycle of life online.  That's what I'm really hoping for.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Thanks, Ram.  I think I get to answer my own question as well.


Chris I think that we tend to be very ‑‑ those of us who have kind of spent the last ten years working in this area tend to get very blase' about it and you've said we don't necessarily know what's going on, we're inside it, I'm very optimistic because the level of passion that exists in the communities now only just being able to be fully served by accessing the worldwide web or the internet is a completely different world where communication has gone to a whole new level, and if we think Twitter is really smart and Facebook is really smart, wait and see what happens next.  The scary thing of course to somebody like me is if it's happening in Chinese or Arabic, I wouldn't have the faintest idea what's going on.


>> CHUCK GOMES:  Just before you close, I want to say thanks for doing a great job of moderating this.

>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  I would like to ask you all to join me in thanking the panel.


>> CHRIS DISSPAIN:  Also I want to thank Kieren, Kieren is at dot Nxt, Kieren, thank you very much.