Monday, November 02, 2009

ICANN Rules for Web Addresses in Foreign Alphabets...

On Friday, in a move designed to further internationalize the internet, ICANN announced that, beginning next year, domain names will be expanded to include languages that do not use the Latin alphabet.

In other words, right now all of the top-level internet domains - .com, .net, .edu, .info, etc. - all use the Latin letters of A - Z. As a result of this ruling, however, top-level domains will now be created in non-Latin alphabets, such as Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Russian, and countless others, as well.

The hope is that doing so will bring "billions more people online – people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives."

It's definitely a noble goal and long-overdue. Accessibility is key for proponents of the idea that the internet can empower the underpriveleged. However, it seems a bit of a stretch for ICANN's chairman to claim that, "The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the Internet since it was created four decades ago".

It's a big change, and an important one at that, but the nature of the Web isn't going to be fundamentally altered by this decision. What it will do, however, is make cyberspace more accessible to billions of people around the world, and better fulfill its self-description of being a global network of networks.

So, let's applaud ICANN for doing the right thing. Hopefully next time it just won't take so long.


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