The roman alphabet will lose some of its dominance of the Internet beginning Monday when the organization overseeing website addresses starts testing 11 new languages for domain names.
In a long-awaited break from its devotion to the Roman alphabet, ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – announced Thursday that it will test registering website domain names in Arabic, Persian, Russian, Hindi, Greek, Korean, Hebrew, Japanese, Tamil, and both simplified and traditional Chinese.
“This will be one of the biggest changes to the Internet since it was created,” said ICAAN president and chief executive Paul Twomey.
People creating web addresses with non-Roman lettering will be routed to a wiki page and required to use “.test” instead of commonly used domain name endings such as .com, .net, .org, or dots before country abbreviations.
A wiki is an online page that allows visitors to make edits or other changes to content.
The results of the test will determine whether ICANN sanctions using languages written in alphabets other than English for complete domain names.
Presently, website creators can use other language characters before the dots in website addresses, but endings must be in English characters such as .com or .net.
“Right now only the ASCII characters A through Z are available for use in top level labels, the part of the address after the dot,” Twomey explained.
“Users will be able to have their name in their language for their Internet when full (domain name) implementation makes available tens of thousands of characters from the languages of world.”
US-based ICANN has been blasted in the past by critics who have accused it of an English-centric approach to website addresses on the global Internet.
S. Subbiah, co-inventor of the first multilingual domain technology, told the Washington Post that he went to ICANN’s chief executive nearly a decade ago with a way to expand beyond English letters.
“The response was basically, ‘I’m too busy. Go learn English,'” Subbiah said.
“There’s … a little anti-American rock-throwing in that description,” ICCAN’s first chief executive, Mike Roberts, said in reply.
“The engineers thought that trying to do the non-Roman alphabet thing with all this growth would destabilize the Internet and cause crashes.”
This test is ICANN’s most important step to date toward multilingual domain names, according to Twomey.
Twomey said he hopes people will push the test “to its limits” so the platform can be perfected.
Approximately 37 percent of the world’s Internet users are in Asia and another two percent are in the Middle East, while 47 percent are in North America and Europe, according to the Internet World Statistics website.
“There are a billion people on the Internet, which means there are five billion not on it,” Paul Hoffman, a Santa Cruz, California-based programmer who created the standards behind the so-called internationalized domain names, said in the Wall Street Journal.
“The new names are not for the current users, but for the next billion.”
Source: Yahoo! News