In other words, the Chinese Internet becomes a reality tomorrow. With
it, the rules of the game may change as 110 million Internet users will
suddenly have access to a competing dot-com (albeit in a different
character set) and will no longer rely exclusively on ICANN for the
resolution of Internet domain name queries. This change was probably
inevitable regardless of the status of ICANN, however, the U.S.
position can't possibly have helped matters. Indeed, some might note
that while Congress has been criticizing U.S. companies for harming Internet freedoms by cooperating
with Chinese law enforcement,
those same Congressional leaders may have done the same by refusing to
even consider surrendering some control over the Internet root to the
international community and thereby opening the door to an alternate
root that could prove even worse from a freedom perspective.
This week's announcement certainly doesn't mark the end of a global
interoperable Internet. It does move one step further toward that path
since in Internet governance terms, the credible threat is now real.
Update: The China story generated significant attention with media coverage from the Boston Globe
, Globe and Mail
, and the Computer Business Review Online
The stories and blog commentary raise several issues. First, these
Chinese IDNs have in place for sometime, though this marks the shift
from "experimental" to full-fledged domains. Second, this will not
immediately impact the rest of the world in the sense that Canadians
will still find that their web queries or email resolves properly.
That is likely the case for China as well (leaving aside censorship
limitations), however, this opens the door to a shift in the future
where the national Chinese root is sole root available in the country.
Third, some have argued that this isn't strictly a new root but rather
an appendage to the dot-cn. While it isn't clear from all the coverage
what is happening technically, there is no disagreement that the
Chinese government has managed to create a series of new TLDs that will
resolve within a country of 110 million Internet users and ICANN had no
role to play in the process. In my view, that is the credible threat.