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Egypt bids for first Arabic top-level domain

Six countries have now applied for internationalised top-level domains, including Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Egypt has bid to be one of the first countries with an Arabic top-level domain.

The Egyptian government on Monday announced it had applied for an Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) from Icann, the internet naming co-ordinator. Tarek Mohamed Kamel, Egypt's minister of communication and information technology, told the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Sharm el-Sheikh on 16 November that the new domain name would be '.misr' written in Arabic, which translates into English as '.egypt'.

"The internet now speaks Arabic," Kamel said in an Icann statement. "This proves that Icann is interested in the multilingual development process of the internet and we're thankful to be one of the first to apply for an Arabic IDN."

Icann said in the statement that, following its opening of applications for internationalised top-level domain (TLD) names in October, it had received applications from countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia. Internationalised TLD names allow non-Latin script to be used for the entirety of a URL including the end, for example .com and .net.

Tina Dam, Icann's senior director of IDNs, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that Icann had received applications from six countries. Dam declined to name the countries, but said that the six applications had been for TLDs in three languages.

"We're very excited to see applications coming in," Dam said.

The process for awarding a TLD has two stages, Dam explained. Icann first looks at the application to gauge whether the string would be technically safe and whether it would be an adequate representation of the country name. The organisation then takes the string and puts it in the root zone.

Dam said each application could take a shorter or longer amount of time, depending on how long it takes Icann to evaluate the string.

"Sometimes we need to ask for information or clarification," Dam said.

When Icann announced at the end of October that IDNs were being made available, security experts said that spoofing of URLs for use in phishing attacks, which are designed to harvest information by sending users to malicious sites, may become more prevalent.

Dam told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the processes Icann uses to determine whether a country or entity should be granted a TLD should mitigate the threat to internet users.

"We take a look at the string and compare it to what we already have in the root," Dam said. "If the root looks like another root, the applicant can't have that string because of [possible] visual confusion."

Dam said the problem of some lower-case Cyrillic text looking the same as Latin or Greek text in applications for TLDs should be sorted out at Icann level. However, registration of websites would require registrars and other operators to act sensibly, Dam said.

"Extending 26 characters to approximately 106,000 is a big change, and we have to rely on operators acting sensibly," she added.

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