[AfrICANN-discuss] Dot-brand explosion will shell-shock lazy coders
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Thu Mar 1 20:37:21 SAST 2012
Dot-brand explosion will shell-shock lazy coders - ICANN
Devs urged to swot up on parsing new domain extensions
By Kevin Murphy<http://forms.theregister.co.uk/mail_author/?story_url=/2012/03/01/dev_support_for_gtld/>•
more from this author<http://search.theregister.co.uk/?author=Kevin%20Murphy>
Posted in Hosting <http://www.theregister.co.uk/networks/hosting/>, 1st
March 2012 09:01 GMT <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/01/>
Millions of internet users face being locked out of popular websites unless
software developers pay attention to the forthcoming explosion in new
top-level domain names.
Domain name overseer ICANN told El Reg this week that developers and
webmasters need to track the progress of its new gTLD programme, which is
expected to start pumping out new right-of-the-dot addresses as early as
the first quarter next year.
Kim Davies, ICANN's manager of root zone services, said that the
organisation is planning a brainstorming session at its public meeting in
Costa Rica next month to figure out ways to encourage the "universal
acceptance" of gTLDs.
When ICANN approved its first batch of new gTLDs – such as .info and
.museum – in 2000, users found that in many cases software would not
recognise these new addresses as domain names. Even today, web-based
registration forms will sometimes reject email addresses that end in .info
and encourage folk to enter a "valid" email address instead.
Newer gTLDs, such as .xxx, which launched in December, have experienced
similar teething troubles.
For example, if you type http://example.com during a Skype instant message
conversation, the software will automatically render it as a clickable
link. If, however, you type http://example.xxx, it will render as plain
text. For several months last year some Twitter applications did not
recognise .xxx as a domain.
These problems often show up because developers use string length or a
hard-coded list of known TLDs to determine whether something is a domain
name, according to Davies.
Because gTLDs such as .com and .org and country-codes such as .uk and .au
are the most commonly used addresses, sometimes address validation
algorithms are designed to reject TLDs longer than three characters. Other
applications use outdated lists of TLDs that do not include recent
This lack of acceptance could become even more problematic when ICANN
starts approving new gTLDs such as .music, .london and .canon, and people
start using them.
"If you're doing a domain check, checking for valid TLD, ask yourself why
you are doing it," Davies said. "Most of the time you don't need to be
doing that check at all. If you do need to do a check, the best way to do
it is to use DNS. You get a response in milliseconds."
For offline applications that cannot access DNS immediately, ICANN
publishes a free daily list of which TLDs are live in the internet's domain
name root zone. It also has released several free reference implementations
at Github <https://github.com/icann>.
"The technology is pretty settled, the issue now is awareness," Davies said.
Calling International Rescue
But the new gTLD programme is also going to throw up another wrinkle that
could confuse developers and web masters – top-level Internationalised
Domain Names (IDNs).
These are domain names that are displayed in anything other than the Latin
script used in English. One Russian company, for example, plans to apply to
ICANN for .ДЕТИ, which means
"It's not just the .museums or .infos that need support, now it's the
.chinas or domains written in Cyrillic," Davies said.
IDNs are designed to be displayed in a variety of scripts using the Unicode
standard, but they are stored in the DNS as ASCII strings that begin with
the prefix xn--.
Software needs to be able to translate the original-script "U-label" into
the DNS-compatible "A-label" using the IDNA 2008 standard, Davies said.
There are several open-source IDNA 2008 libraries developers can use, such
as this one <http://www.gnu.org/software/libidn/>, he said.
ICANN will use its session in Costa Rica on 14 March to reach out to domain
name registries, registrars and other interested parties for ideas about
how to encourage acceptance. Those unable to attend in person will be able
to remotely participate via the ICANN website.
"There's a notion that maybe we should keep track of notable websites and
software and their level of support," Davies said. "Maybe we can find some
high-value targets and make sure that key websites or key pieces of
software support these TLDs."
However, Davies acknowledged that the market may take care of the problem
by itself. While previous new gTLD introductions have been small enough to
fly under the radar of many developers, ICANN is expecting over 1,000
applications for new gTLDs this time around.
With many of these expected to be "dot-brand" addresses owned by technology
companies, awareness of the need for gTLD acceptance could spread virally
"With the proliferation of many more TLDs I think awareness will naturally
increase," Davies said. "I think the rising tide will lift all boats." ®
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