Single-letter names (was: Re: Update of RFC 2606 based on the recent ICANN changes?)

John C Klensin john-ietf at
Sat Jul 5 00:37:53 CEST 2008

--On Friday, 04 July, 2008 15:01 -0400 William Tan
<dready at> wrote:

> John,
> To add to your point, one should also consider the question of
> embedded semantics in a single-character label.
> Alphabetic scripts such as Latin mostly represent sounds used
> to make up words. While one can certainly find some legitimate
> single-character words (such as the article "a" or the personal
> pronoun "i") and dream up others, it would not be very
> convincing in the face of your explanation #3.

> On the other hand, characters in ideographic scripts such as
> Han are not mere sounds or glyphs; they represent one or more
> concepts. Therefore, a single-ideographic-character TLD label
> is certainly more justifiable. I would even go as far as to
> suggest that it is essential in many cases. For example, "猫"
> (U+ 732B) in both Simplified Chinese and Japanese means "cat"
> as in English, not the abbreviation for Catalan nor the UNIX
> command. The reverse translation of "cat" yields the exact
> character in Simplified Chinese, though in Japanese sometimes
> the Hiragana sequence "ねこ" is also used. One would be
> hard-pressed to come up with a different character to
> represent the same concept in Han, aside from the traditional
> Chinese counterpart "??" (U+8C93).

Yes.   As I tried to indicate, I was trying to be brief and
obviously left some things out as a result.  While I agree with
what you say above, it also opens another question.   I'm not
quite ready to agree with the often-expressed principle that
people have some "right" to register particular names.  For
example, IBM clearly owns a well-known mark "ibm".  That gives
them some rights --in trademark law, rather than the DNS-- to
prevent anyone else from using the string, at least in ways that
would create confusion.  But it doesn't give them any inherent
"rights" to register the name in the DNS.  In this specific
case, while I don't see any reason to ban
single-"ideographic"-letter TLDs, I also don't believe that the
fact that U+732B, by itself, means "cat" creates any intrinsic
right to register it in the DNS.   If there were a compelling
reason to ban single-letter ideographic TLDs, I would not
consider your "cat" example to be particularly compelling
because I don't believe there is a "right" to a TLD for cats or
the equivalent.

That distinction is important because I think it quite likely
that as we look at other alphabetic scripts with relatively
small numbers of characters, we are quite likely to find some
where more, and more significant, words are spelled with only
one character than is the case with Western European languages.
And I believe the rule for those scripts, for the reasons given
in my earlier note, should be "no single-letter domains", not
"no single-letter domains unless one can find a dictionary

> I don't know what the present thinking is on the idea of
> non-semantic TLDs, but IMHO the social expectations of DNS
> usage is cast in stone. Jon's idea would simply shift the
> semantics to the second level, thereby creating 24 roots
> instead of a single "."

As I indicated, I think that particular idea is no longer
relevant (if it ever was).  I'm happy to engage in speculation
about whether it could ever have worked, but only in  the
presence of strong drink.


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