Countries will soon be able to apply for internet addresses using characters from their national languages.
The first Internet addresses containing non-Latin characters from start to finish will soon be online. In January, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, paved the way for an entire domain name to appear in Cyrillic for Russia and Arabic for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Added to the list this week are suffixes in Chinese for Hong Kong; Sinhalese and Tamil for Sri Lanka; Thai for Thailand and Arabic for Qatar, Tunisia and the Palestinian territories
Since their creation in the 1980s, Internet domain names such as those that end in ".com" have been limited to 37 characters: the 10 numerals, the hyphen and the 26 letters in the Latin alphabet used in English. Technical tricks have been used to allow portions of the Internet address to use other scripts, but until now, the suffix had to use those 37 characters.
With the addition of non-Latin suffixes, Internet users with little or no knowledge of English would no longer have to type Latin characters to access Web pages targeting Chinese, Arabic and other speakers.
Under ICANN’s Fast Track Process, nations and territories can now apply apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name – and made up of characters from their national language. If the applications meet criteria that includes government and community support and a stability evaluation, the applicants will be approved to start accepting registrations.
The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the Internet since it was created four decades ago," said ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush. "Right now Internet address endings are limited to Latin characters – A to Z. But the Fast Track Process is the first step in bringing the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world online for domain names."
This latest development in the globalization of the internet will have a dramatic effect on international business, as billions of more people will have the ability to access internet sites in their native language. The opportunities for business people everywhere are enormous.
For more information on the ICANN Fast Track program please visit: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/idn/fast-track/
Trend to Watch: Look for Internet Use to Explode as Non-Latin Domain Names Open the Web to the First of Billions of People Who Are Unfamiliar with Latin Characters.