A plan to allow the Internet Domain Name System to recognize languages other than English is being criticized as creating more problems than it solves, by either overloading existing routers or splitting sections off so they cant be reached by everyone.
The Internet Engineering Task Force is proposing a protocol that will allow the DNS to look at a name entered in a language other than English and translate it into the correct numeric Internet address. Because the current system is based on English, countries such as China complain that U.S. companies can — and do — unfairly dominate the Internet.
As a result, not only are countries prevented from registering domains in their native languages, but non-U.S. registrars find themselves drawn into a competition with better entrenched U.S. companies. Some countries, like China, take such conflicts to heart, and try to persuade non-Chinese companies to stop selling Chinese-language domains ending in traditional extensions, such as "dot-com" or "dot-cn," the designation for China.
The IETFs goal is to make names written in code other than English-friendly ASCII equally routable through DNS servers, eliminating special browser requirements and opening the business to all registrars.
The initial draft of such a protocol will likely be finalized at the IETF meeting this month — after 18 months in development — and is expected to then go through at least two more discussion stages. However, dissent is already growing.
Critics say the DNS system, which already shows signs of overload, could simply collapse under the pressure of all these added features. And more important, they say, the Internet would become highly fragmented, with some regions not able to communicate with the others.
John Klensin, vice president of AT&T Labs Internet architecture, said the ability to route foreign-language domains doesnt address other problems with domain internationalization, such as words in Japanese, Chinese and Korean that "are pronounced differently, mean something different, but have the same character representation"; different identification of identical letters in Roman-based and other character sets; or the more mundane issue of cybersquatting, which could become more pervasive with more domain options.
Critics such as Klensin call for more intelligent features to be built in concert with new DNS routing abilities. Such features could, for example, offer a help function to individuals who type a domain name that has multiple meanings.