The European Commission has introduced the use of non-Roman characters in .eu domain names, allowing the names to incorporate characters from all twenty-three official languages of the European Union for the first time.
The introduction of internationalised domain names (IDNs) means domain names can include accented accented characters such as 'ç', commonly used in Portuguese and Catalan, and 'ñ', as used in Spanish and Basque, as well as names written in Greek or Cyrillic characters, the Commission said on Thursday.
"Many internet users will come from countries where most languages are not based on the 'a to z' Latin script and they will naturally want to use their own scripts," said Viviane Reding, the EU's Information Society Commissioner, in a statement on Thursday. "The launch of international domain names under .eu will respond even better to the needs of a multilingual and multicultural Europe."
The change marks one step in a gradual shift that will ultimately allow the top-level domain (TLD) '.eu' itself to be written in non-Roman characters such as Cyrillic or Greek, the Commission said.
The Commission first adopted the rules allowing for the use of non-Roman characters in .eu domain names in June of this year. At November's Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Reding informed the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) that the EU would also move towards introducing variants of the '.eu' TLD in non-Roman characters as soon as possible.
"When Icann approves international domain names at the top level for .eu, EU registrants will be able to register a whole web address in their own script," the Commission said in a statement.
The .eu TLD was approved by Icann in 2005 and registration was introduced in phases from 2005 to 2006. The TLD is intended for both individuals and organisations, and there are now more than 3 million .eu domain names, according to the Commission.
Icann approved the introduction of IDNs in October, paving the way for the use of scripts such as Arabic and Cyrillic in TLDs as well as domain names.
In November Egypt said it had filed the first application for a TLD in Arabic — '.misr' written in Arabic, which translates into English as '.egypt'.
Icann is planning further liberalisation of the domain name system, having voted in June to allow customised top-level domains. The decision means that, in addition to more traditional TLDs such as .com and .org, theoretically any TLD will be permitted as long as it is no longer than 64 characters in length.