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Qatar joins others in race for Arabic domain names

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE are close to going live with web addresses entirely in Arabic script

The move will see web addresses entirely in Arabic script introduced.
The move will see web addresses entirely in Arabic script introduced.

Qatar has joined a growing list of Middle Eastern countries eager to have internet domains written entirely in Arabic.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that Qatar, along with Palestine and Tunisia have passed the second step of a detailed three-part registration process.

"This is indeed good news for those applicants in their endeavours to getting their country names in Arabic as TLD (top-level domain) strings," commented Baher Esmat, regional manager for ICANN. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates already passed this stage in January.

The registration process includes initial preparation, evaluating the string submitted (e.g, ‘.emarat' written in Arabic for the UAE) and then finally submitting it to the DNS root zone, managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), a department within ICANN.

Egypt, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE are at the last stage that involves delegation with the IANA. Esmat explains this crucial step is about getting the name (TLD) into the root (Internet root servers), so that when you type in an address like itp.net, it can be accessed because .net is already in the root and itp is a domain registered under .net.

While Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates passed through the stages ahead of Qatar and Palestine, Esmat says that that's not an indication of which regional country will be the first to introduce Arabic domains.

"It is very difficult to estimate how long the delegation process would take, because it simply varies from one case to another," adds Esmat, though the new internet extensions are expected to come online in approved countries sometime this year.

ICANN made a decision to end the exclusive use of Latin characters for internet addresses in October 2009 and shortly after began to accept applications from different countries that wished to use characters from their native languages such as Chinese, Arabic and Japanese for an entire internet address, instead of just parts of addresses as in the case of .com or .net.

Presently, ICANN has received a total of 19 requests from countries that want to use internet domain names in a language other than English.