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Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) in .museum  - Basic policy considerations

Language selection

A top-level domain registry supporting IDN explicitly lists the available languages, including the letters and characters that may appear in each. In the case of national top-level domains (so-called 'country code' or ccTLDs) the choice of languages is often obvious and the establishment of policies is relatively straightforward. The situation is less clear with international domains ('generic' or gTLDs), although the desirability of IDN support in them is apparent.

The original structure of the .museum namespace took advantage of its limitation to the A-Z Latin alphabet. The results may be seen at http://index.museum. It is not yet clear how this can best be adapted to the changing situation given with IDN. Initial support has therefore been focused on languages that use extended Latin alphabets. This allows for the reasonably facile inclusion of names containing IDN characters in the current index and eases the monitoring of their correct appearance.

A list of available languages is maintained at http://about.museum/idn/language.html. The formal statement of the policies that apply to the registration of names in which they are included is maintained at http://about.museum/idn/idnpolicy.html.

Policy issues

Providing IDN support in a gTLD for a language that is used in several countries may require the consideration of differing policies in the corresponding ccTLDs. Situations where the reconciliation of varying approaches might be necessary are likely to be apparent with both shared and neighboring European languages, which thus form a useful test situation for IDN implementation in a gTLD.

Potential policy concerns may be illustrated by the manner in which orthographically equivalent characters are treated. For example, are the labels <møller> and <möller> completely separate, or should the registration of the one convey rights to the other and restrict it from independent registration? What about <mueller> and <müller>? The agencies responsible for the ccTLDs in which cases such as these most likely would be a practical concern have, in fact, set coherent policies on this matter. Orthographic alternatives are treated as separate and distinct from each other when used in domain names, leaving it for prospective name holders to aggregate them as desired through multiple registration. This policy has been generally adopted for the European languages currently available in .museum. Similar conditions will not as readily apply to language groups that do not use alphabetic scripts.

The further development of IDN support in .museum will be steered by expressions of interest from the museum community. Although little can be said about the directions that this ultimately may take, the appearance of languages used by national governments, as well as other metropolitan languages, is expected to parallel their use in ccTLDs. Special attention will therefore be focused on the inclusion of indigenous and smaller languages. The utility of IDN will be harnessed to the extent possible to call attention to languages that are in danger of being lost, with resulting erasure of associated cultural and natural heritage. This action will be coordinated with revitalization initiatives already in progress and is intended to provide impetus toward such action where it has yet to be initiated.

Latest update: 2005-01-20