ICANN today announced a clear roadmap for the introduction of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) based on progress so far and future work.

"ICANN has a clear process for the introduction of IDNs. There is much intense work being done by ICANN committees and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). That includes IETF standards, testing and rules discussions. A substantial amount of this work is now coming to fruition" said Dr Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN.

"ICANN expects that these final tests and discussions will reach a resolution by the end of 2007" Dr Twomey said.

"Making changes to the root zone file is ICANN's responsibility. But this is no simple task. If we get this wrong we could very easily and permanently break the Internet" Dr Twomey said.

The first major step, has been achieved. ICANN's guidelines and the work of the various registries on second level domains means that many people are already expressing their on-line identification in their own scripts.

"Millions of people in Europe and Asia whose languages do not rely on Roman characters are already reaping the benefits of this work" Dr Twomey said.

"We are now in the final stages of what is a very complex process, that is, putting IDNs to the right of the dot" he said.

ICANN is currently conducting laboratory tests to determine the readiness of the root zone file (the master file of all identifiers) and its associated root servers and resolvers to house or work with IDNs. This process, including the results will be made public on ICANN's website http://www.icann.org

The design of the test is anticipated to be available for public scrutiny in early November, and the live root zone tests will be conducted and ready for analysis by December 2006. All information related to the laboratory testing will be made publicly available at http://www.icann.org.

"If these testing processes are successful, as we expect them to be, we will have the technical solution. But there are also policy issues that are simultaneously in discussion, concerning the creation of new top level domains including IDNs. We need both the technical and the policy issues to be resolved to complete this process" Dr Twomey said.

The policy issues are currently being discussed in a variety of areas within ICANN's structure that includes end users, technicians, registries and registrars, intellectual property experts, linguistics experts and Governments.

One example is the GNSO (Generic Names Supporting Organization) which through its constituencies is tasked with the development of policy matters related to the generic top level domains (such as .org and .info). Other constituencies with work underway in this field are:

Very importantly, the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee),

- The ccNSO (country code names supporting organization) and many more.

"ICANN believes that all this testing and discussions will reach a resolution by the end of 2007" Dr Twomey said.

"We are committed to the introduction of IDN top level domains as soon as all these necessary processes are complete" he said.

This will include IDN versions of country code names as well as generic top level domains.