One topic that kept being misunderstood at the ICANN meeting in India was ‘what is the purpose of the IDN wiki’ – the example.test site that are actual IDN TLDs in the root. I’ll try to explain what is going on with the wiki and what it can and cannot be used for.
First some background and clarifying information. Having your script/language represented in the wiki is not a pre-requisite for eventually getting an IDN TLD in the root. These 11 languages/scripts are merely being used to evaluate usability of IDNs in applications. The “example.test” strings in the wiki were translated into the specified languages and then represented by the associated scripts.
There are no other strings but the one for “example” in each of the zones. To answer another question that often comes up — there are no registrations available and there is also no associated registration policies, nor are there variant tables. Variant tables across scripts can be quite a challenge to develop, especially when there are similarities with other scripts supported under the TLD (mixed or not). For more on this, see for example all the work related to Indian languages and scripts at http://del.icann.org/node/88 (the presentations will be posted asap).
What this all means is that having clear rules for how these tables and policies should be developed are very important factors as we move towards introduction of IDN TLDs. While the IDN Guidelines provide an initial overview of this, the details of it will be important in the implementation of the processes and policies related to the introduction of IDN TLDs (regardless of it being on the ccTLD or gTLD side).
So in other words, inclusion in the wiki does not indicate whether or not a script/language combination is safe to deploy and as such can be used directly in the root.
So back to the original question – what does the wiki then do? It is an online tool so all interested users can try out fully localized domain names (IDN both before and after the dot) in, for example, web addresses or email addresses. Interested users could be registrants, general users of domain names in some capacity, registries or companies that are thinking about becoming IDN TLD operators, application developers who either have or are going to implement IDNs for use in their products. As such there can be many different reasons for participating in the wiki. But in general it should provide a good overview of what IDNs solve and what the difficulties are around usage – the problems that users face. They will also help highlight other limitations in solutions (keyboards or software to type and also to display scripts, application support and difference in implementation, content, etc).
Historically, when new TLDs have been included in the DNS, there have been some cases with some usability problems. The hope is that the wiki in addition will demonstrate to any potential IDN TLD operator what some of the acceptance or usability problems are around IDNs. As such this will give a good up front indication of what user complaints may arise when the day comes that IDN registrations are purchased and moved into operation (under IDN TLDs).
The wiki provides some suggestions about how participants can test along with other IDN relevant IDN information. It can be accessed at http://idn.icann.org and functions like any wiki where you can set up an account and create pages and participate in discussion forums.
Note: while much of this work is related to IDN TLDs it is important to keep in mind that a lot of the experience and knowledge we have today to supply at the TLD level is coming from the implementations at the second level. IDN at second level have been around since 2001.