Web domain names written in Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian coming soon

Internet regulation body ICANN said it is finalizing plans to introduce Web domain addresses using non-Latin characters, such as those in Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew and other languages.

Just a month after it formally severed all ties to the U.S. government, Internet regulation body ICANN said it is finalizing plans to introduce Web domain addresses using non-Latin characters, marking the first time Web addresses will be written natively in Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew and other languages.

It's the biggest change to the system in its history, the organization said. ICANN stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

The body said it that it was finalizing plans to introduce web addresses using non-Latin characters.

If the proposal (.pdf) is approved on Oct. 30, the first applications for non-Latin domains would be accepted by Nov. 16, the organization said. The first Internationalized Domain Names, or IDNs, could go live by mid-2010.

"Of the 1.6 billion internet users today worldwide, more than half use languages that have scripts that are not Latin-based," said Rod Beckstrom at the opening of ICANN's conference in Seoul, South Korea, as reported by the BBC. "So this change is very much necessary for not only half the world's internet users today but more than half, probably, of the future users as the internet continues to spread."

The original proposal was approved in June 2008, and testing has been ongoing. In the meantime, some countries such as China and Thailand have introduced unsanctioned workarounds that allow users to enter Web addresses in their own language.

The full list of languages that have been tested is: Arabic, Persian, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Russian, Hindi, Greek, Korean, Yiddish, Japanese, Tamil, Hebrew and Amharic.

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