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Correct IDN string for Russia

  • To: <idn-cctld-issues@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Correct IDN string for Russia
  • From: "Alexei Sozonov" <sozonov@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 18:22:40 -0800



To the ICANN CEO and to the Request to Provide Input on Introduction of IDN 



We must select the correct IDN string for Russia to use in its ccTLD. That is 
the Cyrillic string .py.


Historically over thousands of years, Russians have proudly used a single name 
for their country, in Cyrillic of course. And pronunciation of the country name 
in Russian - "ROOS" - is similar to the way one pronounces "Russia" in English 
and also generally around the world.


To date the ASCII ccTLD designated by ICANN for Russia, based on ISO 3166-1, 
and used by Russians for more than a decade, is the string ".ru". This is 
naturally pronounced "ROO" by all Russians, as in "kangaROO". The Cyrillic 
string ".py", being a natural shortening of the country name pronounced "ROOS", 
is also pronounced "ROO". Thus for more than a decade, Russian Internet users 
have always pronounced the ending of every domestic web-site as "dot ROO". And 
they have named the Russian segment of the Internet "ROO-net".


In virtually all conversation, writings, advertisements and billboards, all 
over the nation, the transliteration/translation of any web-site identifier or 
of an email address has been ".py" - the Cyrillic that is pronounced "ROO". 
This has incurred billions of rubles spent over decades and has become 
ingrained in use by the 25 million Russian Internet users and the 250 million 
Russian population at large.


To a Russian speaker it is unthinkable that any ICANN-designated IDN TLD 
intended for the country Russia be anything other than ".py". That is simply 


Moreover, the Cyrillic ".py" - now for long years - has in fact already become 
firmly entrenched in Russian use of the Internet.


ICANN showed no interest in addressing the needs of IDN worldwide when the IDN 
technology was widely available and tested in Asia, from 1999. In Russia - as 
in similar indigenous launches in China, Arabia and elsewhere - an indigenous 
IDN TLD Cyrillic ".py" launched several years ago. That Cyrillic ".py" has been 
successfully operational since then. The many facets of Russia's Internet 
community have supported it. That includes most Registrars and Resellers, and 
many ISPs are supporting. For example the dominant national Cybercafe chain, 
with thousands of outlets, has supported it for over five years.


With many thousands of names registered, Cyrillic ".py" also enjoys widespread 
media support. Most significantly, corporations and other institutions have 
registered these ".py" domains and have been including them in their 
advertising campaigns for years. The deployed technology follows the IDNA 
standard, recommended by IETF since 2003 and approved by ICANN. Critically and 
very responsibly, Russia has taken the conservative approach of registering 
ONLY Cyrillic characters in front of its Cyrillic ".py".


Now, ICANN in the past year has stepped up belatedly to solve the IDN "mess", 
finally - a step we wholeheartedly applaud. In various discussion "tracks" 
about deploying country-code IDN equivalents, there has been a suggestion that 
Cyrillic ".py" should not be designated to Russia. The grounds? It is visually 
similar to the existing ASCII ccTLD string ".py", assigned to Paraguay and used 
by this respected nation for over a decade.


This argument holds that someone could register a string composed of Cyrillic 
characters preceding the ASCII ".py". The purpose would be intentional 
confusion with another registration, but fully Cyrillic, one with the same 
preceding characters followed of course by a Cyrillic IDN ".py", not ASCII. As 
we know, this is called "homographic spoofing".


The difference between Cyrillic and ASCII, when these two characters are 
combined as capital letters, is obvious to any native Russian speaker. When the 
characters are lower-case characters, there is similarity. But beyond that, 
almost all this undesirable homographic spoofing goes away if ICANN had 
previously followed the obvious guideline IETF expected, when it formalized 
IDNA:  namely, that any and all IDN domain names must be in a SINGLE script 
throughout. A wise deployment would have restricted registration to ONLY the 
characters normally used in a single language script.


Unicode may be an all-encompassing character-set, and many European languages 
do share a large Latin character sub-set. This may have encouraged IDN.ascii 
composite domains, during the original Versign testbed in 2000 and in the 
formal deployments, later, after 2003 and continuing today. But if wisdom had 
prevailed instead, the rules for Paraguay's ".py" would have allowed for 
registering only ASCII characters relevant to Spanish or Guarani in front 
(Guarani is Paraguay's indigenous language and uses European Roman characters). 
And Russia's Cyrillic ".py" would have only Russian Cyrillic characters in 


We in Russia exercised early and continuing prudence with our ".py" where only 
Cyrillic characters are allowed to precede the Cyrillic TLD. If ICANN had 
helped us by adopting a similar restraint in its practice, most of the current 
homographic spoofing would have been eliminated. Homographic spoofing would be 
seen for the "Red Herring" argument that it is. And the needs of Russia's 
hundreds of millions would not be sidelined owing to historical errors.


Needless to say, we don't want at stake inside Russia the attractiveness and 
fairness of ICANN as legitimate world arbiter for the Internet.


Even if the current final draft on policy for IDN gTLDs continues to allow 
mixed-script registrations between first and top levels in the domain name - 
which could legitimate them - a modicum of sense prevailed in finally 
disallowing mixed script within a level itself. This does illustrate that 
distinctions among language scripts can and, so, must be made.


As no deployments of IDN gTLDs have occurred yet, it is still not too late to 
reverse this fundamental error for IDN gTLDs. Since the debate on IDN ccTLDs is 
at an earlier stage, if not for IDN gTLDs, at least for IDN ccTLDs caution 
should and must be exercised. Only a single script should be allowed all the 
way through first, top and other levels.


In short, we applaud ICANN's renewed, if belated, interest in IDN TLDs. And we 
are happy that ICANN is considering the needs of Russians. Russians want, and 
ICANN must designate to Russians, Cyrillic ".py".


In fact, Paraguay's NIC (NIC.py) has, on its own, wisely and responsibly 
obviated the historical error. On their own, they have allowed only 
registrations in Latin characters. And except for a small percentage of 
domains, they also have only registered third-level domains behind com.py, 
net.py, edu.py, org.py, mil.py, and gov.py. Of course the third level is 
inhospitable to spoofing, if Paraguay did not limit registrations only to Latin 
characters - which in fact it does limit.


On its own Paraguay has conducted its NIC responsibly, so there indeed is no 
barrier to Paraguay and Russia cooperating happily together - Paraguay with 
ASCII and Russia with Cyrillic.


Those who would put the red herring of homographic spoofing as an obstacle fail 
to understand the fundamentals.


 (1) While the two ".py's" may be visually similar when in lower case, spoofing 
can be eliminated with suitable and simple conditions in the agreement with 
end-users. In the unlikely event, spoofers' names will be blocked and taken 
from them, then offered to the good-will owner of the name that is already 
registered and visually similar.


 (2) Spoofing can be vastly reduced if ICANN simply elects to allow only a 
single script all the way through first, top and other levels. This would just 
follow the good practice of the Paraguay NIC.


Spoofing is a crime and should be treated accordingly. It is monstrous, 
however, to hold a whole nation hostage to petty thievery. That indeed would 
not be the right policy. We do believe that remote possibilities, defused as 
above, will not derail ICANN from leading the Internet Community in the right 



Yours Sincerely,



Alexei Sozonov

Russian Language Name Internet Consortium, www.rlnic.ru



Sergey Sharikov

Regtime.net, ICANN Accredited Registrar, www.regtime.net

Attachment: Correct IDN string for Russia.doc
Description: MS-Word document

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