First non-Latin top level domains go live, says ICANN

Out-Law News | 10 May 2010 | 2:48 pm | 2 min. read

The internet's first top level domains that use non-Latin characters are now in use. The domains are the result of reform by the body responsible for the internet's addressing systems.

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has changed the addressing system it operates in order to allow for the creation of top level domains in other scripts than the Latin alphabet.

Three have now gone live. They are top level domains for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

"Today the first three production non-Latin top-level domains were placed in the DNS root zone. This means they are live!" said Kim Davies on ICANN's blog. "All three are Arabic script domains, and will enable domain names written fully right-to-left. Expect more as we continue to process other applications."

The change will mean that those who speak Chinese, Arabic, Hindi or other languages that do not use the Latin alphabet will now be able to host sites at addresses in those languages.

"The geographic expansion of the Internet and the corresponding increase of use by various linguistic groups or communities resulted in the need for domain names also to consist of characters from all scripts used in the world today," said Tina Dam on a separate ICANN blog. "Content written in various languages has been around for a long time."

"The fact is that for example websites where the content is all in Hindi should also have a web-address in Hindi. Web content in various languages has been around for a long time. The matching addresses are now here," she said.

The new top level domains are called Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) and they were created in order to balance out the latin-bias of addressing systems.

"IDNs will provide opportunities for more people to have easier access to the Internet," said Dam. "Some people are concerned about IDNs dividing the Internet because they are not able to read or type some of these languages."

"But it’s all about user choice. The choice of effectively being able to select which script or language a domain name should be based on. In this way you can brand yourself better and in that way target the market you want more effectively," she said.

Dam said that it was important to enable the creation of IDNs so that the internet itself did not fracture along linguistic lines

"Another aspect of this that is important to realise it that by introducing IDNs in the Internet/single root today means that we hopefully have avoided a fragmentation with various 'internets' based on different scripts," she wrote. "That would be a situation where communication between these 'internets' would be difficult if not impossible. Introducing IDNs in the Internet today effectively ensures the global interoperability of the Internet."

Editors note: this story has been changed to make it clear that the new development is the use of non-Latin characters in top level domains.