Having been accused of ignoring the lack of universal support for new gTLDs in favor of virtue-signalling its support for multilingual domain names, ICANN has now insisted it is working on the problem.
ICANN chair Tripti Sinha said in a letter (pdf) published today that ICANN staff have been “actively engaging” with the software developer community on a “multitude of efforts” aimed at getting Universal Acceptance for all domain names.
She was responding to an October 2023 letter from .tube CEO Rami Schwartz, whose solo research last year uncovered the fact that many major app developers — including WhatsApp maker Meta — were relying on hard-coded TLD lists up to eight years old to validate domains.
This meant domains in the hundreds of TLDs that went live after November 2015 were not being detected as domains, and therefore not automatically “linkified” into clickable links, in many near-ubiquitous apps and web sites.
But Sinha insists that ICANN has been putting resources into the problem, including creating a “technical UA team” that is “actively engaging with technical organizations and communities, raising bug reports, as well as contributing open-source code where possible”.
The team has been participating in hackathons and conferences to push the UA message, she said, and has engaging in web sites such as Stack Overflow (where coders ask each other questions about tricky programming problems) to educate developers.
She named Meta and WordPress as software companies ICANN has been reaching out to directly.
“The ICANN org team has been meeting with META and reported UA related issues to them, including linkification. The team has recently also reported the issues shared by you related to more recently delegated TLDs, including .TUBE,” she told Schwartz. “META continues to look into these issues and is making progress towards resolving them.”
She also pointed out that ICANN and the ICANN-funded Universal Acceptance Steering Group held a Universal Acceptance Day last year and will conduct another this year.
UA Day is actually dozens of individual events — over 50 last year — that took place across the world over the space of a couple of months. This year’s event appears to be equally diverse, with events taking place from March to May across many locations mainly in Asia, Africa and South America.
The UASG supplies PowerPoint presentations and videos to each event to use if they wish, but the focus is very much on the substantially trickier problem of UA for internationalized domain names — domains or email addresses that use non-Latin scripts or diacritics not present in ASCII — rather than the lower-hanging fruit of getting developers to update their TLD lists more frequently.
Even though there hasn’t been a new TLD delegation for a couple of years, there were still almost 30 TLDs deleted from the DNS root last year. The number of valid TLDs changes perhaps more frequently than many developers realize.
Walking down the street somewhere, I once saw a barbershop called “Every Six Weekly”. Crap brand, certainly, but the message lodged itself in my borderline autistic nerd brain — that’s how often society expects me to get my hair cut, every six weeks.
Maybe ICANN should try something like that.