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ICANN Gives Asia Its Dot

In a move reflecting the growing Asian flavor of the Internet, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) yesterday approved the first top-level domain registry based in the Asia-Pacific region.

The .asia top-level domain will join other Asian-Pacific Internet domains, such as Japan, China, and South Korea already managed by DotAsia Organization. The addition brings the total number of Internet domain suffixes to 266.

Despite the fact that more than 64 percent of Internet users coming from non-English-speaking countries and Asian speakers comprise 33 percent of the online population, only 11 percent of .com or .net registrations come from Asia, argued the Hong Kong-based DotAsia.

The new .asia top-level domain will provide "a clear brand to reach and enrich the broad global community," according to the organization.

As part of that outreach effort, DotAsia is considering allowing domain names to use the Asian alphabet. ICANN is also investigating a similar expansion for domain naming.

For owners of domains using existing .cn (China) or .au (Australia) country code domains, the new .asia domain means users will need to pay for both top-level domains, as internetnews.com previously reported.

Increasing international participation in the international naming process was just one of the objectives outlined in ICANN's newly released strategic plan for 2007 to 2010. ICANN must ensure its practices are "designed to serve and support a global audience as effectively as possible," according to the strategy statement.

ICANN said the next three years must be used to implement the agreement it signed with the Commerce Department on moving the Internet domain name and addressing system to the private sector.

That agreement with the federal agency relaxes government control over the Internet agency's practices, releasing ICANN from the need to report to the DOC every six months. The new contract, which lasts until 2009, moves the semi-governmental ICANN to a more private-sector group.