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The Strategic Counsel report on the first public consultation

To read the report on the first public consultation, click here.

Comments from the first consultation

To read the comments on the first public consultation, click here.

The Strategic Counsel report on the second public consultation

To read the report on the second public consultation, click here.

Comments from the second consultation

To read the comments on the second public consultation, click here.

IDN Consultation

Overview

Over the past 7 months, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) has considered the proposed implementation of French characters (also known as Internationalized Domain Names, or IDNs) in .CA domain names.  As part of this process, CIRA consulted extensively with subject matter experts, our CIRA Certified Registrars and conducted two public consultations to obtain feedback on CIRA’s proposed implementation of IDNs.

CIRA would like to thank everyone who participated and provided us input. CIRA received a tremendous amount of feedback, which has directly and demonstrably shaped our IDN implementation plans. 

IDNs are currently scheduled to be made available in early January 2013. Now that the IDN consultation is complete, CIRA has begun to develop the policies for the implementation of IDNs, and the technology required to implement this new offering.  CIRA will continue to communicate any developments in the implementation of IDNs via our website and regular electronic communications.

Continue reading below or click on the links on the right hand side to find out more information on IDNs and the public consultations.

Introduction

CIRA currently only offers .CA domain names in ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), otherwise known as non-accented Latin-based script (a-z).  However, CIRA will be implementing  French Interntionalized Domain Names (IDNs) at the second level (to the left of the dot).    

Objectives

CIRA’s objectives for the launch of IDNs are as follows:

  • To provide the opportunity to Registrants to register domain names correctly in French, one of Canada’s two Official Languages;
  • To continue to develop the .CA domain space as a key public resource for the social and economic development for all Canadians;
  • For the IDN launch policies and procedures to reflect current world wide best practices;
  • To ensure the policies and procedures of the launch be as consistent as possible with existing policies and procedures;
  • For the policies and process not to be unduly complex;
  • To reduce the potential for phishing and user confusion.

First Public Consultation

CIRA held a public consultation on its proposed IDN Policy in the fall of 2011. The IDN Policy proposed having a 12 week Sunrise period where existing .CA Registrants would have the opportunity to register any available IDN variant of their current ASCII domain name. This would be followed by a 12 week Landrush period that would allow any interested party to submit an application for an IDN domain name that was not previously registered or applied for during the Sunrise period.   At the end of the Landrush period, IDN domain names would be made available to the general public on a first come first served basis.

CIRA received a tremendous amount of feedback during the public consultation, with approximately 350 comments on the online forum and more than 50 formal submissions.  CIRA engaged The Strategic Counsel to collect and analyze all of the responses following the close of the public consultation.  The Strategic Counsel prepared a corresponding report, which provides highlights of the responses and summarizes the key themes of the feedback received in the public consultation. 

Many commenters in the public consultation expressed concern over the increase in phishing and user confusion that IDNs might create. They also expressed concerns about the cost implications for domain name Registrants who might feel compelled to register every variant of their domain name to protect their brand. Furthermore, others noted that a 12 week Sunrise period would not provide sufficient time for Registrants to decide whether they required a variant of their domain names.

In addition, a few commenters noted that CIRA’s proposed new characters should include æ, ÿ, and œ, in order to ensure that the full range of characters used in the French language be included in the domain name space.

Bundling of Characters and Second Public Consultation

As a result of the feedback received, CIRA amended its proposed IDN Policy and suggested the “bundling” of character variants.  According to this “bundling” approach, the Registrant of a particular domain name would have the exclusive right to register all of the variants of that domain name, and no other Registrant could register any of those domains.  

In CIRA’s view, the revisions to the proposed policy addressed the following major concerns that were raised during the consultation:

  • Character bundling would alleviate the concern over the increase in phishing and user confusion that IDNs might create given that under bundling, the holder of a particular domain name would have the exclusive right to register all of the variants of that domain name, and no one else could register any of those domains.
  • Many commenters also expressed concerns about the cost implications for domain name Registrants who might feel compelled to register every variant of their domain name to protect their brand and Internet users. Bundling character variants means that only Registrants who believe their users could benefit from domain names with French characters will register these domain names. Registrants would not need to register variants to protect their brand or to prevent phishing or fraud. In addition, wholesale pricing of IDNs would not be higher than wholesale pricing of ASCII domain names.
  • Others noted that a 12 week Sunrise period would not provide sufficient time to domain name registrants to decide whether they required a variant of their domain names, and recommended extending this period.  CIRA’s Character bundling would remove the necessity of having a Sunrise and/or a Landrush period to protect existing .CA holders. .CA holders could choose to register an IDN variant of their domain name (e.g. the holder of grace.ca wishes to register grâce.ca) at any time, as they would have the exclusive right to register those variants.

CIRA held a second public consultation on the bundling aspects of its proposed policy from January 24 to February 24, 2012. Valuable feedback was received, with over 102 comments on the online forum and 30 formal submissions. Overall, commentators supported CIRA’s approach to bundling domain names, viewing it as fair and reasonable, and as addressing the key concerns raised in response to CIRA’s original draft proposal, namely, costs burdens, the need for purely defensive registrations, and an increased potential for fraud, abuse, phishing and cybersquatting.  Highlights of the responses and a summary of the key themes of the feedback received in the second public consultation can be found in the second report prepared by The Strategic Counsel.

Highlights of Planned Implementation Policy

Based on all the feedback received, CIRA is pleased to announce the following key highlights to its approach of implementing French character IDN Domain Names.   Please note, the following points do not delve into all of the aspects of the implementation, nor do they delve into details. CIRA has begun to develop the policies for the implementation of IDNs, and the technology required to implement this new offering, and will of course provide detailed technical and policy documents well before the launch.

French Characters

CIRA’s new characters will include æ, ÿ, and œ, so that the full range of characters used in the French language is included in the domain name space.  Therefore, CIRA will allow the registration of the following Latin Supplement-1 Unicode characters:

  1. é, ë, ê, è
  2. â, à,æ
  3. ô,œ
  4. ù, û, ü
  5. ç
  6. î, ï
  7. ÿ

Bundling 

Character variants will be bundled together. This means that the holder of a particular domain name will have the exclusive right to register all of the variants of that domain name, and that no one else can register any of those domains.   For example, only the holder of preside.ca will have the option to register préside.ca, prèsïdë.ca, prësîdê.ca, etc. if they wish.   Similarly, only the holder of the domain name préside.ca will have the option to register preside.ca. A Registrant can also choose to only register an IDN domain name (e.g. grâce.ca) and not the ASCII version (grace.ca). As all variants of the same domain name can only be registered by the same Registrant, in the event a transfer of a domain name takes place, whether voluntary or involuntary (e.g. as a result of a dispute), all variants of the same domain name will have to be transferred at the same time. 

No Requirement for Sunrise and/or Landrush

CIRA’s character bundling removes the necessity of having a Sunrise and/or a Landrush period to protecting existing .CA. holders. With bundling, .CA holders can choose to register an IDN variant of their ASCII domain name (e.g. the holder of grace.ca wishes to register grâce.ca) at any time, as they will have the exclusive right to register those variants.  Accordingly, there is no need for a set period of time such as a Sunrise and/or a Landrush period for .CA holders to register any available IDN variant of their current ASCII domain name. 

Registrar Adoption Voluntary

CIRA is not requiring all Registrars to support IDNs. Instead, Registrars will have the choice whether or not to support IDNs based on their assessment of demand from their customers.  Registrars that decide to offer IDNs will be required to fully support them, such as by enabling modifications, renewals, and transfers of IDN domain names.

Single Registrar

CIRA conducted considerable investigation into whether ASCII domain names and their IDN variants could be held by different Registrars from a technical and policy perspective.  Based on this investigation, it was determined that allowing ASCII domain names and their IDN variants to be held by different Registrars would not be practical from either a technical and policy perspective. CIRA determined that this would require the following:

  • Finding and implementing a way to determine that two contacts at different Registrars represent the same Registrant .
  • Finding and implementing a way to validate that the registration request for a domain variant was carried out by the actual  Registrant of the bundle, and not someone else using their contact information.  
  • Furthermore, a change made to a domain name in the bundle by one Registrar would require that this change be duplicated to the other variants in the bundle held by the other Registrars. For example, given that bundle variants must be held by the same Registrant, if one Registrar implemented a Registrant transfer for one of the domain names in the bundle, it would be necessary for the other Registrars holding the other domain names in the bundle to also make that change, and the transfer would not take place until all the Registrars had made the change.

It was ultimately determined that  allowing ASCII domain names and their IDN variants to be held by different Registrars would require all Registrars to engage in development effort to support this system, regardless of whether they intend to support IDN domain names or not.

As a result, CIRA is requiring that domain names in a bundle must all be held by the same Registrar, as well as having the same Registrant contact. For example, the domain names preside.ca, préside.ca, prèsïdë.ca, prësîdê.ca, etc. must all be held by the same Registrar under the same Registrant contact. If a domain name within the bundle is transferred to another Registrar, all variants of the bundle will have to be transferred.  Transfers for some of the bundle variants will remain pending until transfers have been submitted for all variants.

Pricing 

The wholesale pricing of IDNs, including variants of existing domain names, will not be higher than the pricing for any ASCII .CA domain names. This will not apply, however to any price related promotions that CIRA may choose to offer, from time to time.

Disputes

Disputes would continue to be resolved as they presently are, using the CDRP.

Existing CIRA Policies, Rules and Procedures

As noted at the outset of the consultation, one of the goals for CIRA continues to be that the IDN launch and the subsequent registration of IDN domain names be as consistent as possible with CIRA’s current policies, rules and procedures, with only such changes as are required to accommodate the implementation of IDN characters.