Non-Latin characters to bring 5 billion people online?
Internet regulator Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved plans to allow web addresses to be written in non-Latin characters, in what has been described as a major turning point in the evolution of the Internet.
The move makes it possible for web address to be written in other languages – Chinese, Russian or Arabic, for example – and be understood by the Domain Name System (DNS), which turns web addresses, such as www.cbronline.com, into a string of numbers known as an IP address.
Icann says that of the 1.6 billion people connected to the web, more than half use languages that have scripts that are not Latin-based, and the move will help even more people get online.
“This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalisation of the Internet,” said Rod Beckstrom, Icann’s president and CEO. “The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of internationalised domain names (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 said that it will launch a fast-track approval process in November and expects to see the first IDNs in use next year.
Lesley Cowley, CEO of Nominet, the national registry for .uk domain names, said that the move is one of the biggest developments in the 40-year history of the Internet.
“The introduction of IDNs is a major turning point in the history of the Internet. There are currently an estimated 1.6 billion people using the Internet and a further 5 billion who are not yet online – most of these people are from nations where their language is not based on the Latin script,” said Cowley.
“Opening up the web to allow Asian, Arabic and other non-Latin based scripts will give this large group of people easier access to the web, helping to bring them online and making the Internet more inclusive,” Cowley continued. “This move will undoubtedly bring freedom to a globally connected community.”