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Asia-Pacific
Web addresses go multilingual
Regulatory body paves way for multilingual web experience for millions of users.
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2009 09:37 GMT
Millions of users will now be allowed to use foreign language scripts for a full web address [EPA]

The regulatory body overseeing the internet has approved the use of website names being written in non-Latin characters.

Viewed as the biggest change in the 40-year history of the internet, it will allow millions of users to use Chinese, Arabic, Korean and Japanese characters for a full internet address, instead of just part of it as now.

The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), voted on Friday to allow such scripts in domain names at the conclusion of a seven-day meeting in Seoul, the South Korean capital.

Domain names are the monikers behind every website, e-mail address and Twitter post, such as '.com' and other suffixes.

The approval comes a day after the 40th anniversary of the internet's inception in a computer experiment by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

'Great initiative'

In video


Al Jazeera's Anand Naidoo reports on how web language will go international

Wael Ghanim, Google's product and marketing manager for the Middle East and Africa, told Al Jazeera there is now intense interest in the Arabic domain.

"The Arabic domains is actually a great initiative which shows that there is global interest in the Arabic domain as well as it solves a clear problem of transliteration whereby there are a lot of different ways where you can write an Arabic name into English."

There are an estimated 40 million Arab internet users and the number is rising daily.

The decision also allows governments or their designees to submit requests for specific names. That move is expected to begin on November 16 and users could start seeing the names in use early next year, particularly in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts in which demand has been among the highest, Icann officials have said.

Potential problems

Icann says the move is the biggest since the Internet's inception 40 years ago
However, not everyone is happy with the changes.

Chang Yong-wong, an internet user, says that certain language domain names could pose some problems.

"If Korean is used during the international communication, foreigners will not be able to understand and will not be able to read it well enough, so there could be some problems in communication," he told Al Jazeera. 

Since their creation in the 1980s, domain names have been limited to the
26 characters in the Latin alphabet used in English, as well as 10 numerals and the hyphen.

Technical maneuvres have been used to allow portions of the internet address to use other scripts, but until now, the suffix had to use those 37 characters.

That has meant internet users with little or no knowledge of English still had to type in Latin characters to access websites in Chinese or Arabic.

Now, Icann is allowing those same technical means to apply to the suffix as well, allowing the internet to be multilingual.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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