Regulator approves multi-lingual web addresses

30 Oct 2009

One of the most significant changes in the Internet’s 40-year history has taken place with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)’s approval of internet addresses containing non-Latin characters.

ICANN, at a meeting in Seoul, South Korea, has given countries the go-ahead to apply for internet addresses (likely as of 16 November) using characters from their national language, such as Greek, Hindi, Arabic, Korean, Japanese and Cyrillic.

The implication of the move is great, as it can open the web to more people around the globe.

‘Historic move’

“This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and a historic move toward the internationalisation of the internet,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s president and CEO, in a statement.

“The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs (Internationalised Domain Names) in the domain-name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online – people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives,” Beckstrom added.

Until now – because the internet was born in the US – the ending of a web address, such as .com and .org, had to be given in Latin script. The way it works is that the Domain Name System (DNS) allows machines connecting computers online to take web addresses that are easily (and generally) understood by humans and turn them into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the Telegraph reported. IP addresses are strings of computer-readable numbers that identify websites.

The first new domains are expected to go live next year.

Photo: Countries will soon be able to apply for internet addresses using characters from their national languages.