Internet addresses in new scripts soon


In a move billed as one of the biggest changes in the web’s four-decade history, the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted on Friday to allow such scripts in Internet addresses during its annual meeting, held in Seoul.

The decision is “an historic move toward the internationalisation of the Internet,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s president and chief executive officer. “We just made the Internet much more accessible to millions of people in regions such as Asia, the Middle East and Russia.”

This change only affects domain names — anything that comes after the dot, such as .com, .cn or .jp. Until now, they could only be in 37 characters — 26 Latin letters, 10 digits or a dash. But starting next year, domain names can be the characters of any language.
The decision, reached after years of testing and debate, clears the way for ICANN to begin accepting applications for non-Latin domain names on November 16. People will start seeing them in use around mid-2010, particularly in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts in which demand for the new “internationalised” domain name system has been among the highest, ICANN officials say.

Initially, the new naming system will only affect web addresses with “country codes”, the designators at the end of an address name, such as .kr (for Korea) or .ru (for Russia). But eventually, it will be expanded to all types of Internet address names, ICANN said.

Internet addresses in non-Latin scripts could lead to a dramatic increase in the number of global Internet users, eventually allowing people around the globe to navigate much of the online world using their native language scripts, it said.

This is a boon especially for users who find it cumbersome to type in Latin characters to access web pages. Of the 1.6 billion Internet users today worldwide, more than half use languages that have scripts that are not based on the Latin alphabet.

“The meaning behind this measure is that the Internet belongs to everyone, no matter what language they speak,” said Beckstrom.

 “It’s all about inclusion of all people in all regions of the globe. The Internet is about bringing the world together and this will facilitate that effort.”

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