web, internet.org, internet

Fostering IDN adoption & growth in India

Internet connectivity in India is in a time of significant growth and opportunity. According to a recent report released by India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (India’s Trillion-Dollar Digital Opportunity Report), “India is among the top three global economies in terms of the number of digital consumers. With 560 million internet subscriptions in 2018, up from 238.71 million in 2013, India is the second-largest subscription market in the world”.

Despite this, historically there has only been limited opportunity for Indian consumers and business owners to navigate the Internet without using the English language – particularly when it comes to registering and using local-language domain names.

On March 1st 2019, Neustar Data Infotech (India) Private Limited, a subsidiary of Neustar®, Inc. (“Neustar”), completed the transition of India’s .IN country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) to Neustar’s Registry platform. Neustar was selected to be India’s new Registry services provider in August 2018 by the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI), and together Neustar and NIXI undertook the significant work of migrating the .IN namespace to Neustar’s industry leading Registry platform.

So what does this mean for .IN domain name Registrants, and the broader Indian internet community?

Now that it is backed by Neustar, the .IN Registry will see a number of new features and improvements begin to roll out – the first of which includes an upgrade to the ability to search and register domains in local Indian languages and scripts.

What’s an IDN?

Put simply, an Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) is a domain name that contains characters in a language-specific script or alphabet. For example, domains that end in .भारत (.Bharat in Devanagari Script) or .ভারত0 (.Bharat in Bengali Script). If you want to know more about the IDN program in .IN, you can read this explainer from NIXI now.

While some IDNs have been available previously, one of the biggest challenges to consumers was that you could only register and manage IDN domains using something called Punycode.

Essentially, Punycode transcribes domains in international languages into ASCII characters – the alphabet used for English and other languages online.

If you’re a real technophile (or if you have insomnia and need something to put you to sleep!), you can read about how Punycode works here.

But in short – most people who want a domain name shouldn’t have to learn Punycode to register an IDN.

If you want to register name.bharat in Devanagari, you should be able to enter नाम.भारत in Devanagari script – simple as that.

Improving the IDN experience

At a recent event in Mumbai hosted by NIXI and Neustar, this exact issue was raised by Ms Tejal Tiwary, Dy. Director at ERNET, India’s National Research and Education Network and exclusive Registrar supporting the ac.in academia domain name zone.

Ms Tiwary lamented that this complex process has impacted ERNET’s ability to support IDNs, saying that “the challenge managing IDNs through the registry portal currently means she must use an external puny-code converter to search, list and manage IDNs.”

To solve this problem, the new Neustar-backed .IN Registry will enable end-to-end Registry portal and WHOIS language support. In short: no more Punycode transcriptions, just intuitive IDN registration and domain management in the chosen script.

The Neustar WHOIS web service also enables native language WHOIS searches, allowing you to enter नाम.भारत in the WHOIS search to check for the availability of a name, or to check a names registration details.

A more inclusive & diverse Indian internet

From March onwards, the Neustar-backed .IN Registry went live with all the seven migrated .Bharat IDN TLDs that currently offer 15 India language tables. In the near future all 22 official languages of India will be supported, once the Centre for Development and Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and NIXI complete the remaining 7 language tables (Kannada, Oriya, Assamese, Sanskrit, Santali, Kashmiri, Sindhi, Malayalam), which will be launched in the .Bharat IDN TLDs selected by NIXI.

The current .Bharat IDN TLDs and their supported Indian language tables are as follows:

IDN TLD (A-Label) IDN TLD (U-Label) Description Language Table Supported
भारत xn--h2brj9c .Bharat in Devanagari Script Hindi, Bodo(Boro), Dogri, Konkani, Maithili, Marathi, Nepali, and Sindhi-Devanagari
ভারত xn--45brj9c .Bharat in Bengali Script Bengali and Manipuri
భారత్ xn--fpcrj9c3d .Bharat in Telugu Script Telugu
ભારત xn--gecrj9c .Bharat in Gujarati Script Gujarati
بھارت xn--mgbbh1a71e .Bharat in Arabic Script Urdu
இந்தியா xn--xkc2dl3a5ee0h .Bharat in Tamil Script Tamil
ਭਾਰਤ xn--s9brj9c .Bharat in Gurumukhi (Punjabi) Punjabi

We’re confident this important new feature will improve the overall experience for all registrars, increasing diversity and strengthening .IN’s space in India’s digital ecosystem.

As Ms. Tiwary explains, “It will be immensely helpful to ERNET and its academia customers to soon be able to search, register and manage their IDNs in the actual language-specific script or alphabet. This will indeed be a new age of success for India’s digital economy and internet users.”