What’s in a name?

ICANN) unveiled a program that will introduce Internet address names comprised of non-Latin based language characters or scripts; such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian

Tags: ArabisationIDNInternet Corporation for Assigned Names and NumbersUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  August 9, 2009

In Abu Dhabi on August 4, 2009; the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) unveiled a program that will introduce Internet address names comprised of non-Latin based language characters or scripts; such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.

ICANN is a global non-profit corporation that oversees the coordination of international IP addresses and domain names; and this corporation is introducing new Internationalised Domains (IDNs) and generic Top-Level-Domain (gTLD) programs. (gTLDs are the portion of a web address that appears to the right of the ‘dot’ such as .com, .org, .asia and so on).

In terms of the IDN web addresses, new IDN web addresses are expected to be available later this year while the gTLD program is expected to start in 2010.

The idea is that end-users will be able to more easily identify localised online content by using fully localised identifiers, and the impact of this is expected to be significant for the Arab world in particular, when one considers that the Arabic script reads right-to-left.

This can potentially allow individuals and organizations the ability to access entirely new markets through the internet, but it will also close some websites off from other markets who don’t speak that particular language. One would therefore need to carefully think about the implications of registering one of these new language domains.

For English speakers, it might be difficult to imagine an internet that is blown so wide open in terms of domain names. What is the point, an English speaker might be thinking. After all, the world’s international language is English and one would think that most of the world would be able to speak English?

But, according to ICANN, 60 % of internet users are not English while English is the main language of the web.

This statistic aside, the result of internet domains becoming more ‘international’ is something that is a bit of a wildcard. Despite ICANN clearly marketing the new domain names, nobody can really say for sure as to how quickly all these new domain names will be taken up, how many of them could be taken up or how quickly they will be registered.

The internet is about to enter unchartered territory and these new naming conventions also show how so much more is capable of being done with regard to internet names and their structure: We might even reach a stage where .com becomes a distant memory.

Gareth Van Zyl is the deputy editor of Windows Middle East English.

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