Report on the Delegation of the السعودية. (“al-Saudiah”) domain representing Saudi Arabia in Arabic to the Communications and Information Technology Commission

ICANN has received a request to delegate السعودية as a country-code top-level domain representing Saudi Arabia, to the Communications and Information Technology Commission. ICANN Staff have assessed the request, and provide this report for the ICANN Board of Directors to consider.

Factual Information


The “SA” ISO 3166-1 code, from which this application’s eligibility derives, is designated for use to represent Saudi Arabia, a country located in the Arabic Peninsula with a population of approximately 29 million people.


The domain under consideration for delegation at the DNS root level is “السعودية”. This is represented in ASCII-compatible encoding according to the 2003 IDNA specification as “xn--mgberp4a5d4ar”. The individual Unicode code points that comprise this string are U+0627 U+0644 U+0633 U+0639 U+0648 U+062F U+064A U+0629.

In Arabic language, the string has a meaning equivalent to “Saudi Arabia” in English. Its pronunciation in English is transliterated as “al-Saudiah”. The string is expressed using the Arabic script.

String Variants

Applicants under the ICANN IDN Fast Track programme are asked to self-nominate an “IDN table”, which has the ability to nominate variants of specific code-points which, when interchanged in a label, will result in the same meaning. If such variants are provided as part of the application, the calculated variants of the delegated string will be reserved from delegation by any party until such time as future policy supersedes this practice. As such, ICANN staff will mark calculated variants as reserved in the Root Zone Database and not entertain future delegation requests for those labels.

The variant labels designated by the applicant are “السعودیة” encoded as “xn--mgberp4a5d4a87g”, “السعودیۃ” encoded as “xn--mgbql7ca0a67fbc”, and “السعوديه” encoded as “xn--mgbqly7cvafr”.

Chronology of event

Internet access was introduced into Saudi Arabia by ministerial decree in 1997, with the task assigned to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). Subsequently, KACST successfully applied for delegation of the .SA country-code top-level domain in 1995. Within the organisation a new department “Saudi Network Information Center” (SaudiNIC) was established to perform registry operations.

In 2003, under new telecommunicatons law, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) was created to regulate information technology and communications within Saudi Arabia. As part of the liberalisation process, Royal Decree 229 was issued in 2004, which saw SaudiNIC moved from KACST to CITC in 2007.

Recognising the desire for Arabic script based addressing on the Internet, a team was created which ultimately became the “Arabic Domain Names Pilot Project”. Comprised of a steering committee and a technical committee, the Project was comprised of seven participant countries (Egypt, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates) and tasked with implementing a test bed to gain early experience in using Arabic domain names in Arab countries, using uniform standards, and developing tools required.

In 2007, SaudiNIC published a paper “Using Arabic Scripts in Internationalised Domain Names”. The paper discusses country-code Arabic language domains in three variants: short stubs, similar to ISO 3166-1 codes; nationality based; and country short name based. The paper speculates for Saudi Arabia the codes could be “سع”, “سعودي” and “السعودية” respectively. The paper notes that “abbreviations are not widely used in Arabic language” and therefore “it has been found that using Arabic full words for gTLDs (sic) is more suitable for the Arabic language”.

In November 2009, an application was made to the new “IDN Fast Track” process to have the string “السعودية” recognised as representing Saudi Arabia. The Minister of Communications and Information Technology wrote in support of this string request in a letter dated 10 November 2009. Letters of support for the string request were also received by representatives of King Saud University, Red Tech Consulting, Bayanet al Oula, Sahara Net and Devoteam Saudi Arabia.

On 6 January 2010, review by the IDN Fast Track DNS Stability Panel found that “the applied-for string and declared variants associated with the application from [Saudi Arabia] (a) present none of the threats to the stability or security of the DNS ... and (b) present an acceptably low risk of user confusion; and confirm that the declared variants are legitimate variants of the applied-for (primary) string”. The request for the string to represent the country of Saudi Arabia was subsequently approved.

On 22 January 2010, CITC presented an application to ICANN for delegation of the primary string “السعودية” as a top-level domain.

Proposed Sponsoring Organisation and Contacts

The proposed sponsoring organisation is the Communications and Information Technology Commission, a governmental entity of Saudi Arabia.

The proposed administrative contact is Abdulaziz Al-Zoman, the head of the Saudi Network Information Center. The administrative contact is understood to be based in Saudi Arabia.

The proposed technical contact is Raed Al-Fayez, technical manager of the Communications and Information Technology Commission.

Evaluation of the Request

String Eligibility

The top-level domain “السعودية” is eligible for delegation under ICANN policy, as the string has been deemed an appropriate representation of the country Saudi Arabia through the ICANN Fast Track String Selection process, and the country Saudi Arabia is presently listed in the ISO 3166-1 standard.

Public Interest

The Director General of the Saudi e-Government Program within the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, and the Vice Minister of Boys Education of the Ministry of Education have both written in favour of the application.

The decision for the proposed sponsoring organisation is by virtue of a government mandate to take responsibility of Internet affairs in the country. No documentation has been provided to demonstrate a public process was conducted in selecting of the proposed sponsoring organisation as the appropriate operator on behalf of the local Internet community. ICANN has received only form letters supporting this application from the local Internet community. These were received from Computer Emergency Response Team Saudi Arabia, ICT Ventures, Devoteam Saudi Arabia, KACST, and Sahara Net.

The application is consistent with known applicable local laws in Saudi Arabia.

The proposed sponsoring organisation undertakes to continue to operate the domain in a fair and equitable manner, using the same policies used for the “.SA” domain today that is published on its website. The proposed sponsoring organisation has stated it engages the community on policy development through surveys, general consultations performed by CITC, and other activities like publishing the RFC 5564 which describes linguistic guidelines for using Arabic in domain names.

Based in country

The proposed sponsoring organisation is constituted in Saudi Arabia. The proposed administrative contact is understood to be resident in Saudi Arabia. The registry is to be operated in the country.


This application does not involve a transfer of domain operations from an existing domain registry, and therefore stability aspects relating to registry transfer have not been evaluated.

The application is not known to be contested.


The proposed sponsoring organisation is the current registry for the “.SA” domain, and has satisfactory registry operational and technical expertise as a result of this.

Evaluation Procedure

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is tasked with managing the Domain Name System root zone as part of a set of functions governed by a contract with the U.S. Government. This includes managing the delegations of top-level domains.

A subset of top-level domains are designated for the local Internet communities in countries to operate in a way that best suits their local needs. These are known as country-code top-level domains, and are assigned by ICANN to responsible trustees (known as “Sponsoring Organisations”) who meet a number of public-interest criteria for eligibility. These criteria largely relate to the level of support the trustee has from their local Internet community, their capacity to ensure stable operation of the domain, and their applicability under any relevant local laws.

Through an ICANN department known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), requests are received for delegating new country-code top-level domains, and redelegating or revoking existing country-code top-level domains. An investigation is performed on the circumstances pertinent to those requests, and, when appropriate, the requests are implemented. Decisions on whether to implement requests are made by the ICANN Board of Directors, taking into account ICANN’s core mission of ensuring the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems.

Purpose of evaluations

The evaluation of eligibility for country-code top-level domains, and of evaluating responsible trustees charged with operating them, is guided by a number of principles. The objective of the assessment is that the action enhances the secure and stable operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems. The evolution of the principles has been documented in “Domain Name System Structure and Delegation” (RFC 1591), “Internet Domain Name System Structure and Delegation” (ICP-1), and other informational memoranda.

In considering requests to delegate or redelegate country-code top-level domains, input is sought regarding the proposed Sponsoring Organisation, as well as from persons and organisations that may be significantly affected by the change, particularly those within the nation or territory to which the ccTLD is designated.

The assessment is focussed on the capacity for the proposed sponsoring organisation to meet the following criteria:

Method of evaluation

To assess these criteria, information is requested from the applicant regarding the proposed sponsoring organisation and method of operation. In summary, a request template is sought specifying the exact details of the delegation being sought in the root zone. In addition, various documentation is sought describing: the views of the local internet community on the application; the competencies and skills of the trustee to operate the domain; the legal authenticity, status and character of the proposed trustee; and the nature of government support fort he proposal. The view of any current trustee is obtained, and in the event of a redelegation, the transfer plan from the previous sponsoring organisation to the new sponsoring organisation is also assessed with a view to ensuring ongoing stable operation of the domain.

After receiving this documentation and input, it is analysed in relation to existing root zone management procedures, seeking input from parties both related to as well as independent of the proposed sponsoring organisation should the information provided in the original application be deficient. The applicant is given the opportunity to cure any deficiencies before a final assessment is made.

Once all the documentation has been received, various technical checks are performed on the proposed sponsoring organisation’s DNS infrastructure to ensure name servers are properly configured and are able to respond to queries for the top-level domain being requested. Should any anomalies be detected, ICANN staff will work with the applicant to address the issues.

Assuming all issues are resolved, an assessment is compiled providing all relevant details regarding the proposed sponsoring organisation and its suitability to operate the top-level domain being requested. This assessment is submitted to ICANN’s Board of Directors for its determination on whether to proceed with the request.