News | 11.05.2010

Moving closer towards a truly worldwide web as the first non-Latin IDNs become available

Non-Latin International Domain Names (IDNs) were on the horizon said the international organization ICANN last year and on 5 May 2010 its dream was one step closer to reality when it announced that “For the first time in the history of the Internet, non-Latin characters are being used for top-level domains’. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates were the first three countries to benefit as such, from a total of 21 requests covering eleven different languages including Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Sinhalese, Tamil and Thai.

ICANN is the not-for-profit organization responsible for the management and coordination of the Internet’s domain name system and is the body responsible for making the Internet a multilingual affair right down to its DNS roots. This change means that it is now possible for domain names to be written in Arabic, and from right to left. It will undoubtedly enhance communication for the millions of people now able to access the Internet in their native language and according to the BBC, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications is ‘one of the first websites with a full Arabic address’.

After more than a decade of hard work invested in realising this dream, more than half the world’s population will be able to access the Internet in their native language. The Guardian reported back in October 2009 how a ‘universal internet address code’ had been developed, enabling the automatic translation of internet addresses with Latin-based scripts into non-Latin based scripts – and vice versa – along with the ability to register and directly access any non-Latin based addresses. With ICANN’s press release last week, it is also no longer necessary for suffixes such as .com to be written in Latin-based script.

ICANN readily admit that teething problems are anticipated as the new IDNs are not expected to work on all computers, address bars may show ‘mangled’ strings of characters, and possible software downloads could be necessary to combat the problem.

However, being able to access the Internet in one’s own native language is something which many people take for granted. And now, thanks to ICANN, this right is being granted to millions more people throughout the world.

Sources: BBC; The Telegraph; The Guardian; ICANN

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