"It is a great moment for us," he said, at a UN-sponsored event that hosted attendees such as Jerry Yang and Tim Berners-Lee, from Yahoo, and known as doyens of the internet.

Multiple domain languages

The change comes after the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an internet oversight agency, decided last month to end the exclusive use of Latin characters for website addresses.

Now Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Korean and several other scripts will be allowed as well.

"Good and democratic internet governance is a means of achieving development for all"

Sha Zukang, the UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs

Sha Zukang, the UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said at the four-day conference: "The voice of developing world must be heard.

"Good and democratic internet governance is a means of achieving development for all."

The move is expected to have significant ramifications in the Arab world, where censorship, limited content and access have led to low levels of Arabic content on the web.

Now firms are looking to invest in opportunities in the Arab online community.

For example, Yahoo recently bought Maktoob.com, a provider of services on the internet in Arabic.

Yang said that his firm would begin offering its email and messenger services in Arabic next year.

He added that currently less than one per cent of online content is in Arabic, despite there being more than 300 million Arabic speakers in the world.