The ICANN headquarters in Los Angeles California US. Inset: ICANN Board Chair Tripti Sinha
As Internet’s naming system celebrates 25 Years, India’s country code .IN, crosses 3 million users

By Anand Parthasarathy
October 1, 2023: Last week, the agency that has regulated the  naming on websites on the Internet – the  Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)  --celebrates 25 years of international collaboration in overseeing the coordination of the Internet's naming system.  
Domain names, as they are called, are what  nearly 400 million users harness to establish their own ‘address’ on the world wide web.
Established in 1998 by the U.S. Department of Commerce, ICANN was administered by   the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems including the Domain Name System (DNS).  In 2016, stewardship was transferred from the U.S. Government to the global multistakeholder community. Today no single nation has control of the organization, though it continues to operate from its headquarters in  Los Angeles, California in the US.
At the top of the naming hierarchy is what is called TLD or Top Level Domain. These could be general purpose – like .com, .net, .org etc.  Or they  could be country specific like .in for India or .uk for United Kingdom.  In 2012,  domain names were expanded to  Generic TLD or gTLD which opened a flood gate of  names like .football or .pizza  which users  used to  draw attention to their specific trade or offering.
The Indian TLD  .in  has been around almost from the beginning of  Internet names even before ICANN formally took over the administration of  names and numbers. In 2022, .in  crossed 3 million users. 
When  ICANN launched Internationalized domain names  to reflect  global  linguistic diversity, it enabled  India to  offer to its users, domain names  in multiple Indic languages and their scripts  -- Devanagari ( for Hindi, Sanskrit, Bodo, Marathi, Maithili, Sindhi etc),  Telugu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Gurumukhi, Kannada, Tamil, Oriya,Bangla with  Urdu, Kashmiri  and Sindhi in Arabic script.  These Indian language domain names   have the TLD .bharat or .bharatam. Today It is possible to create domain names in all  22 official Indian languages.
Though growth of Indian language domain names have been slow – in tens of thousands rather than millions--  the sheer availability is a tribute to  Indian efforts in applications to  ICANN through the National Internet Exchange  of India (NIXI) . This agency administers  all  Indian domains -- .bharat
"India can serve as a role model in Universal Acceptance (UA) and more inclusive internationalised domain names (IDNs)",  said  senior ICANN  executives during an interaction with Economic Times in May this year.
Added ICANN  CEO Sally Costerton: “Digitisation in India has been so fast that suddenly we're looking at this kind of poster child country, which is enormous, with vast amounts of people to come online... It’s like the perfect case study for UA… Meanwhile, you've got the (Narendra) Modi government going 100 miles an hour, putting in broadband, putting in digital services from the top down. And that creates the economic momentum.”
The Chair of  ICANN’s board is India-born Tripti Sinha whose other responsibility  is at the University of Maryland where she is Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Vice President.  Able to speak  or  understand Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Sanskrit,   Ms Sinha  recognizes  India’s  challenge to nurture multiple languages on the Internet:  ET quotes her: “Other parts of the world are just adapting to English but India is a little bit different – more complex, (with a ) diverse population and many languages  You don’t want everyone ‘to come on board to English’. You want to preserve your culture and your identity. And if we can make the internet multilingual, then you preserve all the rest of it.”
Other nations, particularly those in the neighbourhood with their own linguistic diversity, like Nepal,  Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka ---will watch with interest how India handles and evangelises  domain names in so many  languages and scripts – no other nation comes even near in the number and variety.   The poster child for ICANN may yet become a role model for the world.
This story has also  appeared  in Swarajya