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When Will The Internet Be Divided Among Nations?

The desired goal of most of the other countries other than US is to end up with their own local language suffixes, own local language domain names, basically their own Internet, with its own domain registration policies—in a nutshell, a very big and a very complex global mess, indeed.

This fight over ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is all about a golden key, as without it, the Internet is completely useless. That golden key is a name on the Net called a URL. It’s all about the master design of a sophisticated key management system so that billions of single domain name identities can offer access to billions of sites without any problem. After all, without this access, the Internet has no value.

It’s this portion of the magic of the Internet that is now being challenged.

It’s also ICANN, the organization that from the start has made some very stringent and often very weird policies about such issues as the golden keys. Now its global authority is being challenged, and such fights could divide the power of this controlling body, and any adverse outcome will simply split the Internet.

Upcoming Clashes

Many countries around the world have questioned how domain name management policies have been handled by ICANN. That has now set the stage for these upcoming clashes.

The UN is the self-appointed referee. It seems a fair match. In the ring, on this side is solo ICANN, representing the founding fathers’ point of view, that of the U.S. On the other side is a large group of nations, almost the rest of the world.

The emerging new players are questioning the evolution of the Internet, and the originating founders’ ideas are being cornered. In hindsight, the founders also made big global domain management policy blunders.

Unfortunately, the UN cannot solve the issue, although it can play a great catalyst role. The result might be a global body under the UN and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), etc.

The desired goal of the other countries is to end up with their own local language suffixes, own local language domain names, basically their own Internet, with its own domain registration policies—in a nutshell, a very big and a very complex global mess.

Choosing five original suffixes as a quick and a simple napkin solution was the biggest mistake. The Global Charter of Corporate Nomenclature and the Rules of Global Domain Name Management were never applied. It was a shortsighted academic plan based on a quick registration revenue generation scheme. The U.S. certainly missed great opportunities during the earlier inception of the Internet Magna Carta. A pity; now it’s boxing time.

Change Almost Unavoidable

The fight is also about common sense based on post-millennium realities, as now the sheer volume of e-commerce is so big, complex, fast and cruel that this overly secretive ICANN with its mysterious charter of operation now is not able to hold this unstoppable break-up movement. Like revolutions in so many sectors of so many industries, this change is almost unavoidable.

“The domain name system is the pillar of electronic commerce, and is more important than the Internet itself. For those who are monitoring the outcome of ICANN’s electronic bureaucracy, here are some possible scenarios: A complete breakdown of the domain name registration system. A type of anarchy on the Internet, allowing anyone to register anything. Trademark offices threaten to shut down, intellectual property becomes public domain. A numbering system similar to our telephones takes over, destroying all the fun of promoting and advertising interesting Web names. Battalions of lawyers will band around the world, declaring war on each other. A great windfall for the profession, as monthly billings becomes perpetual.”

Source: DomainWars, by Naseem Javed, 1999, Linkbridge Publishers.


For now, English is the big mama of the business language on the global scene, but on the spoken side, Chinese is the big papa. In a few years, as every second person in China gets a business portal, they will become dominating e-commerce players dwarfing the West. China would need its own independent control of how it will play the access game, decide on local languages, suffixes and come up with its own registration and trademark dispute policies then rather wait for annual memos from ICANN.

Many countries have long wanted their own language for the Internet and their own internal systems, while the creation of foreign language suffixes has been a sore point with ICANN. True, there have been some very technical limitations. Internet is no longer an advance science project rather it’s a global engine for the world’s
e-commerce, which incidentally is driven by brand name accesses and marketing rather some electronic beauracracy .

Just like the break of AT&T into five Baby Bells, which are now running wild on a open-ended telephony, it is equally possible that the Internet could experience a major break-up and a similar fast-track ride to global independence.

Just like the telephony privatization process and the introduction of various splits, there would be dozens of different types of internets, each addressing its own marketing and communication goals. The duplication and multiplication would make usage extremely complex, as if changing from a countryside drive to a maze of 20-lane highways, each with its own checkpoints, driving rules and types of vehicles. It would be like using 20 different airlines to go on a global tour; the journey would remain on target while customs, menus and languages would change each leg of the trip. Indeed, it would be a very colorful but very sluggish journey.

Web surfers would either surf on a single country’s Internet, or a specific global industry’s or a certain language’s, and then swim only in that particular ocean. The entire world could become a complex global search engine, and the use of global languages would become mainstream. This is not just a prophecy, rather it is a reality in the making. It will happen soon and it will happen very fast. It will also be the biggest shockwave that modern e-commerce has ever seen.

The Future of the Internet

There are some 247 countries with their assigned Top Level Domains (TLD), each with their own specific requirements and desired goals and an agenda. All it will take is one country to start the domino effect. China has already threatened.

First, there will be a mega shift in the access mechanism, the complete re-thinking of search engine methodologies and optimization. Second, there will be a 10-fold jump in the number of Web sites on different types of internets. Last, there will be a major overhaul of the current domain name system and suffixes, starting a series of races for new suffixes by various big countries.

The globalization of universal corporate image, name identities and cyber branding will become ultra-sophisticated, and consumers all over the world will interact far more with other languages and ethno cultural issues than just plain English. This will be an extraordinary time for the global branding on e-commerce. Website and domain name management with search engine optimization will get a brand new meaning. The impact on global communication and domain name management would be awesome. It’s about time for all organizations big and small to better prepare themselves for these upcoming issues. Why wait ‘til the ninth round.

By Naseem Javed, Expert: Global Naming Complexities, Corporate Nomenclature, Image & Branding

He is the founder of ABC Namebank, author of ‘Domination: The GTLD Name Game’, syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and specialist on global naming complexities.

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JFC Morfin  –  Jul 26, 2005 5:37 PM

We all know that everyone can run his own root and that sending the root file to every user or maintaining it at every PC (as for an anti-virus base) would cost ten times less bandwidth than the root servers today.

Today most users trust the Internet system as it is. More and more people are going to distrust it as it is, because WHILE it is not in their language and they do not understand it, SOME others will better use it, now multilingualism becomes an issue, Vint Cerf acknowledged it and WGIG made it an awckwardly described priority. Do you really have a problem connecting an Arabic site in using an Arabic name from your own machine today? More and more will understand it, and some will help them as a service, since IETF only came with confusing un manageable IDNA.

The stability of the network is not engaged. But the credibility of the DNS and the appeal of the DNs are at stake.

This will then come back to TMs. The error of ICANN has been to make millions activists or informed people believe TMs were the bad guys preventing them to purchase DNs. Once DNs are gone, or partly gone, what will prevent the mess? How will I use Google?

The key of a network is its directory. The directory is not the root. The directory is the IANA file. And the (very near) future is to distributed IANA services, offering IANA matrices. The same as many private systems legitimately run their private alt-roots (cf. ICP-3).

The trigger might be the commercial approach of the langtags (languages tags) some hope impose to the IANA (IETF WG-ltru). This is a very sensible issue (totally orthogonal to developers minds). This will lead Web pages to call on IANA language (biased) documentation - or on extended Open Source documentation, since full ISO 639-6 20.000 languages support and ISO 11179 compliance will not be provided to protect a scarcity benefitting to dominant sources. Open Source extended IANA will provide it. And will often be considered as national resistance.

In proposing more, better, faster services in a key to most area, these CRCs (common reference centers) will probably educate users to trust and use value added mirrors to IANA. For years,  I daily document the true root file (the one one can obtain from the ccTLD Managers files - including national TLDs when available by the local community representative authority [Gov/ccTLD]and documented on NTIA listed name servers). Anyone can use my http://nicso.org/intlroot.txt and add its own TLDs, etc.

But let understand something: every country is far more interested (like the USA - http://whitehouse.gov/pcipb) in protecting a secure and stable access to its critical and key indutrial infrastructure systems than in sharing into the domain name “industry”.

Who is then to protect and educate the users?

Howard Li  –  Aug 2, 2005 9:41 AM

There is now a wildly spread rumor that many countries are going to balkanize the Internet. And some believe China will be the upfront nation to push the first card of the domino. They reasoned it out using the double digit percentage of annual economic growth in the country. However, to me, it is clearer that the Internet is going to keep as a whole instead of break up into pieces. If one day it does fall apart, it will be a result of those misleading rumors ? ever heard of ? a lie can become truth when it?s repeated a thousand times??

At here, I don?t want to say anything more, ?cause the quote following can say more about the Chinese?s position on IDNs.

We are of belief that the following points should be highly noted in developing IDNs.

1. The development of MDN should not only ensure the stability and compatibility of the current Domain Name System, but also should guarantee the interests of those language users and respect the policy mechanisms of local society where majority specific language users live, such as politics, economy, legal system and culture.

2. IDNs are not simply the issue of Technique, but more relevant to Management. Since the fundamental purpose of deployment of IDNs is to serve the demand for non-English speaking Internet communities, IDN management should not be fully controlled by commercial interests. When making the policy of IDN management, those language users should be given the opportunity to voice their opinions on relevant IDNs.

3. Those cooperative organizations formed by the Internet communities who speak native languages other than English should be encouraged to play an important role in relevant IDN management, provided that those organizations operate within the current DNS and under the coordination of ICANN.

Anyone who are interested in reading the full article, you can find it at CNNIC?s website

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