Middle East
Egypt creates Arabic web domain
First non-Latin character domain name promises greater access for Arabic speakers.
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2009 09:49
Other scripts such as Chinese will also become active after the decision to allow non-Latin characters [AFP]

Egypt has introduced the first internet domain name written in Arabic, allowing millions of Arabic speakers easier access to the world wide web.

The domain .misr, written in Arabic and meaning 'Egypt', becomes the first non-Latin character domain, as part of an effort to expand access and content to developing nations.

Tarek Kamel, the country's information technology minister, said at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday that the domain name was available from midnight.

The move "will offer new avenues for innovation, investment and growth, and hence we can truly and gladly say ... the internet now speaks Arabic," Kamel said.

"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.

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