ICANN signs up first ever Arabic top-level domain
Contract signed for Arabic-language Web namespace; live launch expected within months
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) yesterday agreed to license شبكة. (.shabaka or ".web" in English), which will become the world's first Arabic top-level domain (TLD), according to dotShabaka Registry, the company responsible for the concept.
DotShabaka saw off competition from almost 1900 other applicants from around the world, to register شبكة., which will provide Arabic-speaking Internet users with an alternative to non-Arabic Internet namespaces such as .com, .net and .org. It is expected to be live on the Internet in the coming months.
"[The] contract signing is a monumental occasion," said Yasmin Omer, general manager of dotShabaka Registry.
"As the first new top-level domain, شبكة. is set to become the centre of all things Arabic on the Internet. It is an incredible achievement not only for us but for the entire Arabic-speaking world. It will pioneer a new way for people to use the Internet that begins with the Arabic language.
"شبكة. will have a global audience, with over 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa [that] use Arabic as an official language - a region that comprises over 380m people."
Omer said Arabic is also the fastest growing language online - with growth of more than 2,500% in the 10 years to 2011.
"In spite of the boom in Arabic content online, users are still burdened with the need to use English on the Internet," she said. "Many websites and Internet applications force visitors to only use English. Through شبكة., we are campaigning for a truly Arabic Internet experience from start to finish.
"شبكة. domain name owners will be getting more than just a Web address; they're signing up for a cause, and becoming part of the movement to empower the Arabic language on the Internet. DotShabaka Registry's vision is to build an Internet that facilitates end-to-end communication and collaboration for every user utilising only their native tongue."
Joining with dotShabaka Registry in the شبكة. venture is domain name and Web hosting provider GoDaddy.
"The شبكة. domain name extension marks a meaningful change for the Arabic Internet, with tremendous opportunities for new businesses to grow and flourish ... in the Arabic language," said GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving.
"We are ready to help make the new names available with an experience that includes easy-to-use search tools and the reliable service the world has come to expect from us.
"This partnership between our two companies is in line with our strategy to expand the GoDaddy brand into international markets and is a significant step in the Internet's evolution."
Yesterday's announcement follows the release of initial evaluation results in March when ICANN announced official approval of شبكة.. Following the contract signing, dotShabaka Registry must submit شبكة. for final testing before it can be accessible on the Internet.
DotShabaka Registry said it had been in contact with Australia-based ARI Registry Services for the provision of software and infrastructure systems to support the new TLD. ARI has had past experience in supporting the .ae, .qa and .om domain name spaces.