IGF 2016 - Day 3 - Room 1 - WS142 - IDNs: "A Key to Inclusive and Multilingual Internet"


The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Jalisco, Mexico, from 5 to 9 December 2016. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 


>> MODERATOR:  My co-panelist could not be here.  I would like for this to be mostly a brain‑storming session.  So I'm going talk a little bit and I really want to hear from you guys.  This is going to be ‑‑ if a lot of you were in the session that was here earlier on IDN and IEA, this is kind of a continuation of that and we're going to think about next step.  So as I say, I'm not going to talk for very long.  I'm just going to level set a little bit for some of the people who might be new to the area.  And then I want to hear from you guys.  Okay?  So what we're going to talk about is this whole area of internationalized domain names, internationalized e‑mail addresses.  And how ‑‑ it really permeates many, many areas.  But the first thing to think about is that today we have ‑‑ today we have an Internet that is by and large English, and having said that, much of the world does not speak English as their primary language.  There are over 7,000 languages spoken today.  And there are at least six major language families.  And so you can see that the number of speakers who speak a non‑English language is about 85%.  That's quite a bit.  So when you're thinking about an English‑only Internet, a de facto English Internet, we need to really be preparing for the real next generation Internet, which I think will be non‑English.  This, I think, is some of the challenge of that we have for of the future.  So let's keep going. 

Where are these languages spoken?  They are spoken in Asia and Africa, many of them.  Elsewhere also.  But if we can get Asia and Africa resolved, that's quite a bit of that language.  And so what are IDNs?  IDNs are internationalized domain names.  If you think of a domain name of course something like Google.com or bankofamerica.bank we will seen be getting more and more IDNs, things that are in other scripts.  For example, you have here something from the a didn't domain.  I have some chance of reading that.  And of course that's how somebody who speaks only Hindi feels about English.  They feel like they don't have much of a chance of reading other scripts. 

This is an easy concept to discuss, but not particularly an easy concept to implement.  One of the big problems is that e‑mail is critical.  If you have a business such as mybank.com or Google.com or whatever, you want to have the corresponding e‑mail for it.  And that is of course true for internationalized domain names.  So these two things are inextricably tied.  If you can't do e‑mail very well, you're not going to see IDNs picked up.  And you can't do e‑mail very well. 

So there are a lot of obstacles to IDN adoption.  It has been around for a while, this capability has been around for quite a while.  There has been a lot of discussion about why it has not been picked up.  There are many issues, and some of the most ‑‑ some of the clearest are the ones I state here, lack of awareness, lack of e‑mail support, security issues, your e‑mail goes into spam your search engine doesn't search on IDNs correctly.  There's interoperability issues and on and on. 

You know when I first got into this, it started seeming to me like an onion.  And so you know what happens when you have an onion?  You have a lot of layers and of course what happens between each layer?  A lot of crying.  And that is how this whole area is.  There are many, many groups involved in this effort.  And just to list the groups that are involved and what they do is a cask in itself.  As you can see, to solve any one problem, at least two or three of these groups, experts within these groups need to be involved.  So the problem is, this is a very complex area.  We need to solve any problem we need expertise from multiple domains and what do we do today?  Naturally what we do today is silos.  Is what we do is each person, each group tries to solve things in their own way.  So what does this lead to?  It leads to potentially not seeing the full picture.  Not having the right people at the table.  And not even having the right requirements.  Not having an inventory of the problems.  And some people who have been in this area feel like I've been over this and over this and over this and I'm wasting my time going over this for the 25th time and it's not something that I think we want to do.  There's not enough time and energy in the world to do that.  And of course we're not really moving forward.  So in this whole air why, let me do a little call‑out that we are standing on the shoulders of the giants.  There has been a huge amount of great work at the IETF.  Ongoing work being done are doing the first implementations and really paving the road for us.  But the next thing in my opinion that I think we need is a collaborative forum.  These are complex problems that span multiple domains, what I suggest is that we have a collaborative forum, and I don't know where it sits.  My most of my work is done at the IETF and I don't know whether it belongs there.  I work with the UASG.  I don't know whether it belongs at ICANN.  I'm just putting this out.  What I suggest as part of the solution is collaboration of exportation.  So how would such a forum work?  Well, our first step would be to actually gather all the problems have an inventory of the problems so we can categorize them and see if something like a different kind of framework needed and then gather the requirements from the community.  What is it that we really need.  I mean, I hear lots of things from some of the people that I work with.  We have farmers in certain regions of India who would like e‑mail addresses in their languages.  So once we've gathered requirements and the problems, we pick the ones that we need to look at after we have the framework and see if we can start solving these problems.  As I say, these are multistakeholder problems.  And we need collaboration in order to fix them.  Rinse and repeat.  Hopefully. 

Let me talk about some guiding principles.  Some guiding principles is that is my first one there are limits to perfection.  One of the things I think with this whole area of IDN and IEA is that our languages, especially when you're talking about 7,000 plus languages, are extremely complex.  And I don't know that we're ever going to be able to duplicate that in any kind of reasonable way in a computer‑based system.  So we have to discuss where the bounds are to perfection.  Having said that, one of the guiding principles of the Internet is any to any communication.  So the other side of that is we want to avoid fragmentation where we can.  Let's try to do incremental changes and see where we get to, but as John said if you go forward without making a plan, you can fall off a cliff.  And I think it's okay to solve some problems.  I think it's okay to just take some of the low‑hanging fruit and fix it. 

So okay, I'm done. 

[ Applause ]

I would like to hear from you guys. 

>> AUDIENCE:  I work with Google voices lingual where I manage a translation project.  So in Egypt I think there are limitations so ‑‑ I just know two companies who saw them ‑‑ sell them and these domains are not really domain service.  So the two companies are two ISPs and ‑‑ [ indiscernible ] so these the domains are not really their main business.  So they don't really do anything promoting them.  I don't know any other company in the rest of the region who sell IDNs.  So I think maybe this is issue, maybe I'm not sure really how the IDNs are like for distributed, how they're sold.  So maybe if that process is more open, we see an increase in usage or maybe other language as well. 

>> MODERATOR:  Yes.  You're getting into the whole awareness area.  Guys, you know, I just want to say too is like everybody who's talking, please come down and give me your e‑mail address if you would.  So I can keep you on a list so I can gather your problems.  Awareness, great. 

>> AUDIENCE:  Of course I've been trying to promote this and I guess self‑pro claimed pioneer of IDNs and these issues as well.  So what you mentioned is great.  In fact it's kind of singing music to my ears.  One of the reasons is because we often look at this issue as a technical issue, or even a commercial issue.  And my view is that yes, technical issues are important.  Yes, the commercial aspects of it is important.  But to me I think we're at a point where we need to make it a social and a policy or even political push for this.  And the reason is because there is a market failure today.  Commercial companies are not picking this up because they're not seeing demand.  And the reason that there is no demand, it's because the applications don't work.  So there is a chicken and egg issue.  There is a market that requires intervention.  That's my personal view and you bring it up in that context here at IGF I think it's the right context.  And to me I've been trying to promote what I think are the three pillars to actually get this done at this stage.  All the work of previously is necessary to get us to this stage, but the three pillars I see is procurement policies.  Procurement policies from government and enterprises.  If they start having a road map in procuring the next system to have IDN awareness and internationalized e‑mail awareness, that's where the system integrates, that's where the software developers will suddenly be aware of the issues.  That's number one. 

Number two is think about upgrading the Internet.  Upgrading the net.  Rather than just focusing on IDNs, we need to band together with others, IPP6, accessibility, even accessibility, honestly.  Because these are all things that developers or companies or IT departments think they are useful, important, but never gets up to the priority.  But if we band together just like another political or session push, then we have better clout, we have better audience.  And the third aspect is write on the SDGs.  Right now we have a common goal; a common global push for the sustainable development goals and IDN needs to be part of that push to get it into the governance, to get it into the policy mind set of people to break that market failure we're seeing today and that's sort of what I see.  It's no longer technical nor commercial issue.  It's an issue of development, it's an issue of infrastructure development and issue of protection of heritage.  We've got to have another leg, the technical, the commercials are important.  The third leg is the policy side which is important.  And one more directive.  Besides the three pillars is the pro active creating use cases in relevant communities, like at a school.  If we find a school, give them all international e‑mail addresses.  Let it start working within small communities and then we can see actual deployment and then we can feature them.  Again, it's not so much technical, it's not so much commercial.  I think we need a social push right now. 

>> MODERATOR:  That is so great.  Yeah.  I think I've got your e‑mail address.  But you know, please let's as I say, we need there are technical challenges.  Push back a little bit there are technical challenges but totally hear you.  It's just like the best practices forum on IPV6.  John?  I'm going give John my mic. 

>> AUDIENCE:  I'm John Clenson and I've had a little bit to do with getting the technology working. 

Two observations.  For starters, I largely agree with what Edmond said, but it's important to understand that this is not a market failure completely and in nobody's moving sense.  This is a market failure in the sense that there's perception of cost and perception of risk as well as the perception of lack of demand that you're talking about.  And I think we need to not ignore that. 

The second very general observation is that I think when you're having these kinds of discussions, it is very important that you make sure you've got your facts straight.  Because this is an area in which there is resistance, there shouldn't be but there is.  There are real or perceived problems, probably more perceived than real, but they're there.  And your positions are easily discredited if the facts by which you're supporting them are wrong, even if positions are right.  There are claims from China is there are now very nearly as many Chinese users of the Internet as there are English‑speaking users of the Internet.  If that's true, and I have every reason to believe it is, then claiming that the big problem here is English is just a distraction.  Claiming that all of those other languages and scripts are equally important and ought to be strongly enabled, is valid and appropriate.  But getting tangled up with this evil English speaker stuff is just going to discredit you and discredit the effort. 

>> MODERATOR:  Do we have people from China here?  We'll have to find out the Chinese.  That's a really good point. 

>> AUDIENCE:  I'm from India.  Although it's one country, it's a fairly large country and we have a large population who are just coming in.  Until now we have been kind of relaxed about IDNs and universal ‑‑ the reason being English was a link language so there was no real pressure to get into IDNs in a very serious manner.  Although initial what was done, the research institutions we trying to kind of get this popularized.  But two things have happened.  Or happening right now.  That makes this very urgent.  The first thing is that the organic went into the next billion where we have very large numbers who are not so educated, who are not so fluent in English, so that's one bunch.  And this is a very large number of people.  The second thing that is happened recently is the whole kick upstairs into the economy.  We have had this demonetization process, and in one fell swoop the government wants us to move into a cashless economy.  So it's no longer in the abstract.  It's a very direct, very acute problem right now.  And I'm sure the government is going to pull out all stops in ensuring this is going to happen.  So this is a good opportunity for us.  This is the context from India.  And a few quick comments.  One it is good to have a multistakeholder process because of the actors and institutions involved in getting this handling this.  And the last point is that we also need to bring in one other community which is end‑user community into this picture.  Thank you. 

>> MODERATOR:  Guys, I think there is something after us.  So if anybody is interested in working on this, working on, we'll start an e‑mail list somewhere.  We'll start getting people together.  Come leave me your e‑mail address.  Because we're going to go forth and start trying to create a multistakeholder forum.  Or at least see if that will work and see under whose auspices we might be able to do it.  Thank you guys all so much.

[ Applause ]

[ Session concluded at 5:00 ]