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By the way… Your IDN is Live.

Just when you think ICANN has got it right, it shoots itself in the foot as only ICANN can.

Unfortunately it seems this is yet another case of one step forward and two steps back.

While we should be celebrating the fact that Internationalised Domain Names (IDN’s) have finally been entered into the Root Zone, we are instead left shaking our heads at the seemingly nonexistent process lines nor communication lines between ICANN and its technical off-shoot IANA.

Before I delve into the embarrassing incompetency of IANA, let us not lose sight of the overall achievement. IDNs have been championed by many people both at a technical and administrative level—not the least of which is Tina Dam, Senior Director of IDNs at ICANN and her team. They are an excellent example of tireless dedication and professionalism and Tina herself has devoted a large part of her ICANN career to ensure that IDNs are successfully implemented. She and all those who have worked on this massive body of work should be proud of their efforts. It is a monumental achievement and will be an impressive legacy.

The events of yesterday must have disappointed them greatly.

So what has me (and many others) ticked off? Well read on…

It is my understanding that the responsible IANA staff member failed to provide prior notification to the relevant ccTLD Managers that these names were about to be entered into the Root Zone. While that is a very significant concern in its own right, I was alarmed to discover that the relevant ccTLD Managers were only notified many hours after the fact, long after the same IANA staff member had broadcast the news on a personal Twitter account, and even, I believe, after posting an update on the ICANN blog.

IANA staff seem to have viewed this as simply another technical update, which they were at liberty to publicise as they saw fit, without first having the courtesy to inform the most directly affected stakeholders.

This was an inappropriate manner in which to announce an event of this importance. It displays a disturbing lack of understanding and a complete disregard of the cultural and political significance of this event within the Arabic world.

I believe that IANA should take a more coordinated approach to all of its responsibilities, particularly to the addition of new TLDs to the Root Zone, to ensure that the requesting parties are given sufficient prior notice before changes are made. This is of particular importance in a case such as this where multiple TLDs are being added simultaneously. It is not clear, for example, whether IANA staff were even aware that this change took place during the middle of the weekend in one of the affected countries. Did they even care to check?

With a further 18 IDN ccTLDs in progress towards delegation, and the prospect of hundreds of new gTLDs to be delegated when the new gTLD program comes to fruition, it is critical that IANA’s communication and coordination procedures be carefully planned and considerate of the needs of the affected TLD Managers.
For me, the fact that certain IANA staff feel it is appropriate to put ‘I run the DNS root zone’ on their Twitter profile, says it all. Just because you run it doesn’t mean you own it. This cozy university mentality is simply not good enough for an organisation running the most critical component of the global communications network. Your technical function, like it or not, has much broader implications.

Put simply, there is an attitude of arrogance at IANA that they will work to their timelines, and so must we. In this instance, the occasion was bigger than them. To the countries involved, countries with which we are working very closely, it was much more. This marks an historically significant achievement and advancement of the Internet in their communities.

Instead of allowing them the opportunity to celebrate their achievement they have been left to scuttle around and attempt to pull together press releases and notify the appropriate representatives of their countries. Not giving them an appropriate “heads up” and therefore making them look underprepared is unforgivable—especially when you had previously provided an indication of “up to a month” before these delegations would occur. IANA has shown little respect for their key stakeholders and it simply isn’t good enough.

For what it is worth, congratulations to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates from the team at AusRegistry International. You can be sure that we respect your efforts and achievements as much more than a simple entry into the Root Zone. We wish you every success.

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Hey Adrian,Congratulations to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Constantine Roussos  –  May 11, 2010 12:20 AM

Hey Adrian,

Congratulations to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the U.A.E for the monumental accomplishment on IDNs as well as the ICANN team that has worked for years on this overdue milestone.

I have always been unsure of IANA. They seem to run things independently from ICANN but are part of the ICANN organization. I am not sure what happened but it was truly unacceptable and the communication by IANA was quite horrid. While tweeting and blogging is an integral part of Internet society and communication online, there is a fine line when it comes to dealing with governments and TLD managers. How long has ICANN been working on IDNs? I believe IANA needs to be held accountable. While IANA processes might have been followed, there is no excuse for not giving the “heads up” on such a monumental occasion.

I am baffled with ICANN timelines. On one hand they delay gTLDs for years, push the timeline forward 3 times and then in regards to IDN ccTLDs it is quite the opposite. ICANN introduces Fast Track IDNs without any overarching issues. They launch IDN ccTLDs in a fast manner (which is a good thing incidently) but IANA fails to communicate appropriately and give “heads up” to the appropriate registries/TLD managers for the 3 Arabic IDNs.

However, let us not overlook the tremendous and historic milestone with IDNs that ICANN and IDN engineers have reached. Let us hope IANA does a better job with communication in regards to the other IDN ccTLDs such as Russia and China. Furthermore, let us hope the new TLDs are not treated as second-rate citizens anymore and progress be as swift and quick as IDN ccTLDs have been.

Congratulations again,

Constantine Roussos

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