The Internet's chief domain name authority has approved a proposal to begin offering internationalized domain names (IDN) in Chinese script, bringing native-language support to the world's largest and fastest-growing online population.
Through the action, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) authorized the establishment of three organizations to implement the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) associated with the new IDNs in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
"This approval is a significant change for Chinese language users worldwide," ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom said in a statement. "One fifth of the world speaks Chinese and that means we just increased the potential online accessibility for roughly a billion people."
ICANN's order approved the establishment of the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited (HKIRC) and the Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC) to manage the Chinese-language domains.
The move continues ICANN's efforts to support non-Latin IDNs the company began last October. Earlier this year, ICANN approved applications for Arabic-script IDNs submitted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Separately, ICANN approved a controversial measure to advance the application for a .xxx domain geared for adult content.
The Internet registry ICM first submitted its application for the .xxx top-level domain (TLD) six years ago, championing the vision of an explicit addressing convention for pornographic websites.
"It's been a long time coming, but I'm excited about the fact that .xxx will soon become a reality," ICM Chairman Stuart Lawley said in a statement. "This is great news."
ICANN's move to expedite the review of the .xxx application adopts the recommendation of an independent review panel, and reverses the organization's 2007 decision rejecting the TLD, which has been mired in controversy from the outset.
As a practical matter, ICANN's decision puts ICM's application on the fast track, promising an abbreviated window to conduct due diligence and negotiate a draft registry agreement.
Once the negotiations are completed, ICANN's Governmental Affairs Committee will review the final contract to ensure that the registry is in alignment with the recommendations submitted by various governments.
ICANN officials described the review as something of a formality to vet the technical details of ICM's proposal and to ensure that it still has the funding to set up and maintain the registry. ICANN is not revisiting the more controversial debate of whether the .xxx domain should be welcomed onto the Internet.
The organization's board of directors approved the measures on Friday at a meeting in Brussels. The board next meets in Cartagena, Columbia, in December.
ICM said it is impossible to project a precise timetable for completing ICANN's review process and securing the final approval of the board and CEO, but the company said it is reasonable to expect the remaining issues to be resolved by the December meeting.