An internationalized country code top-level domain is a top-level domain in the Domain Name System (DNS) of the Internet. IDN ccTLDs are specially encoded domain names that are displayed in an end user application, such as a web browser, in their language-native script or alphabet, such as the Arabic alphabet, or a non-alphabetic writing system, such as Chinese characters. IDN ccTLDs are an application of the internationalized domain name system to top-level Internet domains assigned to countries, or independent geographic regions.
Although the domain class uses the term code, some of these ccTLDs are not codes but full words. For example, السعودية (as-Suʻūdiyya) is not an abbreviation of "Saudi Arabia", but the commonwealth short-form name of the country in Arabic.
Countries with internationalized ccTLDs also retain their traditional ASCII-based ccTLDs.
As of August 2018 there are 59 approved internationalized country code top-level domains, of them at least 47 used. The most used are .рф (the Russian Federation) with over 900,000 domains names, .台灣 (Taiwan) with around 500,000 and .中国 (China) with over 200,000 domains. Still as of 2018 around 20 countries using non-Latin script do not have an internationalized country code top-level domain, including Japan.
The ICANN board approved the establishment of an internationalized top-level domain name working group within the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) in December 2006. They resolved in June 2007 inter alia to proceed and asked the IDNC Working Group to prepare a proposal, which the group delivered in June 2008, "to recommend mechanisms to introduce a limited number of non-contentious IDN ccTLDs, associated with the ISO 3166-1 two-letter codes in a short time frame to meet near term demand." The group proposed a methodology using ICANN's Fast Track Process based on the ICANN charter to work with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
- Identify technical basis of the TLD strings and country code specific processes, select IDN ccTLD personnel and authorities, and prepare documentation;
- Perform ICANN due diligence process for technical proposal and publish method;
- Enter delegation process within established IANA procedures.
In October 2009, ICANN resolved to start accepting applications for top-level internationalized domain names from representatives of countries and territories in November. Starting 16 November 2009, nations and territories could apply for IDN ccTLDs. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Russian Federation were among the first countries to apply for the new internationalized domain name country code top-level domains. In January 2010 ICANN announced that these countries' IDN ccTLDs were the first four new IDN ccTLDs to have passed the Fast Track String Evaluation within the domain application process. In May 2010, twenty-one different countries representing eleven languages, including Chinese, Russian, Tamil, and Thai, had requested new IDN country codes.
On 5 May 2010, the first implementations, all in the Arabic alphabet, were activated. Egypt was assigned the مصر. country code, Saudi Arabia السعودية., and the United Arab Emirates امارات., (all reading right to left as is customary in Arabic). ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom described the launch as "historic" and "a seismic shift that will forever change the online landscape." "This is the beginning of a transition that will make the Internet more accessible and user friendly to millions around the globe, regardless of where they live or what language they speak," he added. Senior director for internationalised domain names Tina Dam said it was "the most significant day" since the launch of the Internet. According to ICANN, Arabic was chosen for the initial roll out because it is one of the most widely used non-Latin languages on the Internet. There are problems entering a mixed left-to-right and right-to-left text string on a keyboard, making fully Arabic web addresses extra useful.
Additional IDN ccTLDs had been implemented by the end of June 2010: one using Cyrillic,
.рф (for Russia), and five using Chinese characters (the first using a non-alphabetical writing system) approved by the ICANN board on 25 June 2010:
.中国(encoded as "
.中國(encoded as "
.zhongguo"), delegated to China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the registrar for ccTLD
.香港(encoded as "
.hongkong"), delegated to Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation (HKIRC), the registrar for ccTLD
.台灣(encoded as "
.台湾(encoded as "
.taiwan"), delegated to Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC), the registrar for ccTLD
The dual domains delegated to each of CNNIC and TWNIC are synonymous, being purely orthographical variations differing only in using simplified forms (国 and 湾), as preferred in mainland China, versus traditional forms of the same characters (國 and 灣), as used in Taiwan.
The new country codes were available for immediate use, although ICANN admit they may not work properly for all users initially. According to Egypt's communication and information technology minister, three Egyptian companies were the first to receive domain licenses on the new "masr" [مصر transliterated] country code. Egypt's Ministry of Communications was possibly the first functional website with an entirely Arabic address. The ccTLD
.рф for Russia launched on 13 May. Bulgaria's
.бг was rejected by the ICANN due to its visual similarity with
.бг was eventually approved in 2014.
The Ukrainian string .укр was approved by the ICANN Board on 28 February 2013. The zone was added to the root servers on March 19, 2013. The Bulgarian string .бг was rejected a second time in March 2011 but was approved by the ICANN Board in 2014, and the Greek .ελ string in 2015, both after controversies about possibilities of confusion with existing Latin strings. India has applied for top-level domains in each of its local scripts, at first seven, later eight more. The first one, .भारत, was approved 2011 and became active in 2014. The general flow of applications has ceased after 2016.
The Pakistan string پاکستان. was approved by the ICANN BOARD on 7 January 2011 to represent Pakistan in Arabic script. On 4 February 2017, IDN ccTLD پاکستان. was delegated to the National Telecommunication Corporation and the zone was added to the root servers on February 15, 2017.
The European Union applied in 2016 for the Cyrillic domain .ею and the Greek domain .ευ. ею was approved and put into operation, but ευ was rejected as being too similar to .eu also belonging to the European Union. In 2019 ευ was approved on the condition that the same registry organisation EURid own both, and makes sure two equal or equally looking second-level domains are not registered in both ccTLD. Second-level domains under eu, ею and ευ shall have same script as the ccTLD (older Greek or Cyrillic domains under .eu got cloned into the new domain, but kept under .eu)
- World report on Internationalised Domain Names 2014 Archived 2014-12-10 at the Wayback Machine page 94
- "Proposed Final Implementation Plan for IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process" (PDF). ICANN. 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
- "IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process". ICANN.
- "ICANN Bringing the Languages of the World to the Global Internet" (Press release). Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). 30 October 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
- "Internet addresses set for change". BBC News Online. 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
- "First IDN ccTLDs Requests Successfully Pass String Evaluation". ICANN. 2010-01-21.
- "'Historic' day as first non-Latin web addresses go live". BBC News Online. May 6, 2010. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- "First IDN ccTLDs now available" (Press release). ICANN. May 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- "The internet gets international with the arrival of non-Latin Domain Names". The Independent. Relaxnews. May 7, 2010. Archived from the original on May 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
- Peter Sayer (June 25, 2010). "Chinese language top-level domains win ICANN approval". Computerworld. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
- "Adopted Board Resolutions — Brussels – 25 June 2010". ICANN. Retrieved June 26, 2010. (Note: In these minutes, the encodings of the two CNNIC-delegated ccTLDs have inadvertently been swapped.)
- "Implementation Plan of .中国 (xn--fiqs8S) and .中國 (xn--fiqz9S)". CNNIC. June 12, 2010. Archived from the original on June 14, 2010. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
- "TWNIC's Registration Policy and Technical Solution for the .台灣 and .台湾 IDN ccTLDs". TWNIC. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
- ".УКР is going live". Habr. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.