EGM on Global Harmonizaton of Arabic Script Use in Domain Names Skip to main content

EGM on Global Harmonizaton of Arabic Script Use in Domain Names


The year 2003 marked a global milestone towards the use of non-ASCII characters in domain names; which were previously restricted to ASCII characters only. The need for standards resulted in the development of a set of Request for Comments (RFCs) and guidelines on Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).

On the regional level, the year 2003 also marked a unification of efforts in the Arab region towards the use of Arabic characters in domain names following five years of numerous detached attempts and activities. Spearheading those efforts, UN-ESCWA developed the first Internet-Draft entitled “Guidelines for an Arabic Domain Name System” and published it on the IETF website in addition to supporting the League of Arab States (LAS) in their Arabic Domain Names Pilot Project. Later in 2007, UN-ESCWA provided additional finance to the Project on Promotion of an Arabic Domain Name System (ADNS), which essentially aims to further the development of an ADNS that is inter-operable with the global domain name resolution schemes. Recently in 2008, following feedback and discussions made with involved stakeholders, and building on the evolution of the pilot project, the published Internet-Draft was refined and republished by UN-ESCWA, as part of its ADNS project, with emphasis on linguistic aspects.

During the first quarter of 2008, and also as part of the above Project, standardization efforts stepped into a more global dimension as collaboration was initiated with international domain name players such as Afilias and the Public Interest Registry (PIR)[1] as well as communities using languages based on the Arabic script such as Persian and Urdu. As a result, the "Arabic Script in Internationalized Domain Names - Working Group" (ASIWG) was formed as a self-organizing group to collaborate on the use of Arabic script in domain names. So far, ASIWG includes experts from several Arab countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE and Kuwait as well as experts from Iran, Pakistan and other countries using Arabic script in their national languages in addition to experts from the UNICODE and IETF community. ASIWG is coordinated by Afilias, PIR and UN-ESCWA.

ASIWG has thus far organized two main meetings in Dubai in March and May 2008[2]. These meetings set the scene for the envisioned cooperation, defined issues and guidelines while investigating solutions for a number of technical issues pertaining to the use of Arabic script in domain names. ASIWG members also relied on telephone conferences and online discussions[3] as a tool to follow-up on progress and plan ahead in addition to a wiki website[4] for archiving documents, presentations and discussions. The Work Group has been able to agree on a number of issues such as the use of diacritics, numerals, , and honorifics.

Keeping with the recommendation on having regular conference calls and in-person meetings back-to-back with global/regional ICANN meetings, the ASIWG plans to hold a meeting on the Global Harmonization of Arabic Script Use in Domain Names as its third meeting in November 2008, directly after the 33rd ICANN meeting in Cairo.

[1] Afilias is the global registry service managing .info Top Level Domain in addition to providing technical solutions in this field whereas PIR is the organization globally managing .org Top Level Domain (TLD).

[2] The work group has also organized one session during ICANN regional meeting in Dubai, April 2008, as well as during the 32nd ICANN meeting in Paris, June 2008.

[3] Online discussions are available at: