ICANN approves non-Latin web addresses

Friday, October 30 2009,

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved the use of web addresses with non-Latin characters for the first time ever.

As one of the biggest changes in the history of the internet, ICANN members agreed at a meeting in Seoul, Korea, to let countries apply for net addresses in their national language.

Up to now, all domain names have only been written in Latin text, with the usual suffixes of .com, .co.uk, etc. However, the new Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) are designed to meet the needs of the large number of web users speaking languages such as Korean, Japanese, Arabic and Hindi, as well as those writing in Cyrillic script.

"This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and a historic move toward the internationalisation of the internet," said ICANN president and chief executive Rod Beckstrom.

"The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs in the domain name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online - people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives."

ICANN has recently been building a translation system to enable Domain Name Systems (DNS) to convert non-Latin web addresses into the right IP.

A fast-track process will start on November 16 for countries wishing to apply for domain names in their native tongue, with the first addresses likely to come online in 2010.

Speaking about the new regulations, ICANN senior director Tina Dam said: "Our work on IDNs has gone through numerous drafts, dozens of tests, and an incredible amount of development by volunteers since we started this project.

"Today is the first step in moving from planning and implementation to the real launch. The launch of the fast track process will be an amazing change to make the internet an even more valuable tool, and for even more people around the globe."