The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) started last week its last call for comments on the results of the Internationalized Domain Name working group standardization activities. There are three related Internet drafts:
The thrust of the working group's hotly debated approach is to maintain an underlying ASCII representation, based on using "Punycode": an encoding technique that uniquely and reversibly transforms Unicode (an encoding of the world's language scripts) into ASCII strings. For an overview on why this particular approach was taken and how it works, see the ITU's briefing paper from its December 2001 joint seminar with WIPO on multilingual domain names. It should be emphasized that even when a technical standard emerges, it will be the beginning of a very long process. In fact, the policy and coordination issues are likely to be even more daunting than the already contentious technical work. ICANN's IDN committee has produced a related discussion paper but I think if anything, they've greatly underestimated the issues that are likely to arise. Update: It didn't take long to confirm that last statement: see follow-up Chinese Domain Name Consortium Reject IETF Approach.