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Gruber Gives Up On His IDN

Tech pundit John Gruber threw in the towel on his domain ?df.ws.

He writes:

What I didn’t foresee was the tremendous amount of software out there that does not properly parse non-ASCII characters in URLs, particularly IDN domain names. Twitter clients (including, seemingly, every app written using Adobe AIR, which includes some very popular Twitter clients), web browsers (including Firefox), and, for a few months, even the Twitter.com website wasn’t properly identifying DF’s short URLs as links.

Worse, some—but, oddly, not all—of AT&T’s DNS servers for 3G wireless clients choke on IDN domains. This meant that even if you were using a Twitter client that properly supports IDN domains, these links stillwouldn’t work if your 3G connection was routing through one of AT&T’s buggy DNS servers.

There is still a lot of heavy lifting left to do among many software and hardware vendors before IDNs can go mainstream. Unless, of course, a country—say Russia or China—mandates their support and pushes the vendors along.

PS: I’ve updated my top-level IDN tracker.

By John Yunker, Author and founder of Byte Level Research

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Not a valid IDN Tina Dam  –  Oct 22, 2010 2:57 PM

Hi John, some of Gruber’s problems has to do with the fact that he has an invalid IDN. Symbols like the one used in his IDN above are not valid characters for use in IDNs.

Other than that I would be very interested in catching up on your experiences, especially if they also related to valid IDNs. This would be of interest of many people working on IDN development and implementations, and also to ICANN in our outreach efforts to software developers. I would also suggest you to start the discussion on http://idn.icann.org which is specifically targeted for users to share their IDN experiences in various applications etc.


Tina Dam
Senior Director IDNs

Good point! John Yunker  –  Oct 22, 2010 4:32 PM

Tina, That's a great point and I should have mentioned it. Gruber's IDN is not permitted under IDNA2008. So, going forward some of his issues (eventually all) should become a thing of the past. Now that ICANN is green lighting these top-level IDNs I think we're finally getting to the point where IDNs become truly user friendly. But the companies that I've spoken to so far are largely taking a wait and see approach. But this could change quickly...

If you want your IDN - ask for it ! Tina Dam  –  Oct 22, 2010 5:35 PM

It certainly has been a "chicken or egg" situation when it comes to IDN availability, but yes, now we have the top-levels as well as second levels, so hopefully apps will follow. I do wish we could spend some more time on the apps availability area, but as you know we have been at some events, and will certainly try to do more as possible. Fortunately others on the industry are doing same type of outreach. At the end I think it will be a question about user demand, unless of course politics take up the game, as you mention, which in this case I agree would most likely result in 'faster' adaption. All I hope is that such implementation will be done in the right and careful way -- see http://blog.icann.org/2009/11/next-generation-internet-users/ or perhaps http://blog.icann.org/2008/11/compliance-with-idn-technical-requirements/ So if you are reading this and you want your IDN to work better then ask for it ! I am up for a campaign with anyone interested :-) Tina PS. The IDN Guidelines always prohibited these symbols, all the way back to 2003 when the initial protocol came out.

IDN drivers John Yunker  –  Oct 22, 2010 10:37 PM

Tina, The registries will certainly do their part to promote IDNs. And maybe we'll see a government or two mandate support for IDNs across various sectors. I also think Google and other search engines can do a great deal to incentivize IDN registration simply by making them more prominent in search results. This alone could be a huge motivator.

IDN tracker Tina Dam  –  Oct 22, 2010 2:59 PM

I like your IDN tracker and hope you will keep updating it :)

Great work, John Jothan Frakes  –  Oct 22, 2010 7:23 PM

I have one of your beautifully designed ccTLD posters, I’d love to see you re-do it with IDN ccTLDs like you’ve done on your site.

That said, it might be worth letting the thundering herd of IDN ccTLDs get into the root first, otherwise you’ll have lots of revisions in the coming year.


ditto Tina Dam  –  Oct 22, 2010 7:48 PM

:-) I asked for the same thing....and will be fun to see the changes over time, even though it does require John to do a lot of revisions (sorry)

other stats Tina Dam  –  Oct 22, 2010 7:53 PM

I also asked http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm if they (in time) would try to see if there was any indication of correlations between the IDN TLDs and the languages used online. Not sure if they read this blog but the answer was positive….but I think there is some time to go still in order for that to make sense.

They have some great language stats if anyone are interested.

I do have to wonder if this Phillip Hallam-Baker  –  Oct 23, 2010 8:49 PM

I do have to wonder if this might demonstrate that the entire premise of the project is wrong. Perhaps the original problem was using a Latin character set that non-European speakers cannot type rather than lack of support for their own characters that Europeans cannot type.

The future of the Internet might well lie in the use of numeric strings which are the only ones that everyone can input on every keypad.

So maybe the telco world lives on after all. Even though the POTS infrastructure is dead.

Brilliant Idea!ICANN should just make everyone use David Wrixon  –  Oct 30, 2010 6:00 PM

Brilliant Idea! ICANN should just make everyone use IP Addresses. Even better now they are going out to 18 characters. ICANN's biggest problem is that is committed to listening to everyone opinions. It is a bit like sifting through elephant poo looking for diamonds!

That's a great point, though I don't John Yunker  –  Oct 23, 2010 9:38 PM

That’s a great point, though I don’t think we’re going to revert back to numbers. But I do see ASCII living for quite a long time—even if it’s only behind the scenes. Technically, IDN is really not a huge obstacle. I think the larger challenges are how IDNs are presented to users in the way that they can make the best use of them—securely. The browsers don’t do a good job of this, yet, in my opinion.

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