Internet goes multilingual with non-Latin domain names

Dylan Bushell-Embling
28 Oct 2009

The internet is about to undergo its biggest-ever transformation, with the appearance of non-Latin domain names from next year.

ICANN, the US-based company that manages the internet domain system, expects to put its stamp on a new system that supports internationalized domain names (IDNs) by the end of the week.

The internet regulator said if it makes its deadline it can begin accepting applications for domain names in non-Latin based scripts by November 16. The first IDNs would then be up and running by mid-2010.

More than half of the 1.6 billion internet users today use languages that do not use the Latin alphabet, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom said in a speech to the body’s annual conference in Seoul this week. That ratio is only likely to increase going forward, he said.

The introduction of IDNs will be the biggest change to the workings of the internet since its invention, ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush told the BBC.

IDNs were first approved in principle in June last year, but the technical planning and testing processes associated with altering DNS to recognize non-Latin characters has taken much longer, he added.

The US last month eased its grip on ICANN by handing oversight of the agency to global panels.

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