Egypt, host of the United Nations sponsored Internet Governance Forum being held this week, Russia and China were among the first countries to submit applications to ICANN for internationalised domain names (IDNs) in non-Latin characters.In total six countries applied for IDNs in three languages. Saudi Arabia was another country known to have applied, also applying for an IDN in Arabic, along with Ukraine.ICANN, the organisation charged with overseeing the Internet’s naming and numbering systems, has invited applications for IDNs, receiving the first applications on Monday this week, as part of its IDN country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) Fast Track Process.IDNs are domain names that include characters other than the currently available set of the English alphabet (the 26 letters “a-z”, numbers 0 to 9, and hyphens). ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush noted, “The IDN program will encompass close to one hundred thousand characters, opening up the Internet to billions of potential users around the globe.”Egypt’s application is for .MISR, which is the equivalent in ASCII characters as the Arabic language term for “Egypt”. Egypt’s Communications Minister Tarek Kamel said the process of implementing IDNs would require “strong investment in the coming phase.””There will also be issues to deal with: linguistic, technical, legal, related to intellectual property and many other big challenges,” Kamel told reporters at the IGF.China’s application is for .中国 domain name suffix while Russia has applied for .РФ and Ukraine applied for .УКР.It is anticipated the first ccTLD IDNs will come online in 2010.
Egypt and China have both said they will be applying for country code internationalised top level domain names as part of ICANN’s fast track process. ICANN will begin accepting requests for the new TLDs today (16 November) at 00:00UTC.
Egypt is planning to launch “the world’s first Arabic language internet domain” with Egypt’s communications minister, Tarek Kamel, saying the new domain name would be “.masr” written in the Arabic alphabet. It translates as “.Egypt”, reports the BBC.
“The effort is part of a broader push to expand both access and content in developing nations, where the internet remains out of reach for wide swaths of the population,” reports the AP.
The report continues saying that “registering of the domain ‘will offer new avenues for innovation, investment and growth, and hence we can truly and gladly say … the internet now speaks Arabic,’ Kamel said at the start of the internet Governance Forum – a U.N.-sponsored gathering that drew Net legends like Yahoo’s Jerry Yang and Tim Berners-Lee, known as one of the internet’s founding fathers.”
China’s application is reported by the China Daily who says that the China Network Information Centre (CNNIC) will also apply for a Chinese TLD today (Monday). The report says CNNIC will apply for the top-level Chinese domain name “Zhongguo”(written in pinyin).
“China has a huge number of netizens – 388 million as of the end of June this year. Their surfing on the Net will be facilitated under the Chinese domains but they can continue to use English domains as well,” said Qilin, assistant director of CNNIC in China Daily.
ICANN President Rod Beckstrom described the importance of this change to the global Internet community, by saying “over half the Internet users around the world don’t use a Latin-based script as their native language. IDNs are about making the Internet more global and accessible for everyone.”
Once the requests are evaluated and approved, new ccTLD IDNs are expected to come online in many countries during 2010.
“This is the biggest technical change to the Internet’s addressing system – the Domain Name System – in many years,” said Tina Dam, ICANN’s Senior Director of Internationalized Domain Names. “Right now, it’s not possible to get a domain name entirely in for example Chinese characters or Arabic characters. This is about to change.”
The introduction of internationalised domain names is being supported by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev who, in a briefing from the Minister of Telecommunications and Mass Communications Igor Shchegolev, reproduced on the ISRIA website and translated into English, says that Russia will be submitting an application for the .рф TLD on 16 November when ICANN calls for applications. Medvedev says registration of internationalised domain names will commence at the end of November.In the briefing, Medvedev agrees with the proposition that government agencies and trademark holders will have first choice of .рф domain names “so that we do not end up later having to buy kremlin.рф or something of the sort from people with no connection to the Kremlin.”Medvedev also appears to be learning about the benefits of Cyrillic domain names with the interviewer suggesting .рф Cyrillic domain names be used to “to set up a government e-mail system in the .рф zone for communication between the state bodies and citizens. This will make it possible to speed up provision of a whole range of electronic services in areas where an electronic signature is not an absolutely imperative thing.”Medvedev asks if “the introduction of Cyrillic domain names and the spread of the .рф domain will help speed up the electronic government’s development?” When told this is the case he says “Well, that’s a good thing.”To read the briefing in full, check out the ISRIA website at:
Not every story on the soon to be introduced internationalised domain names is serious with The Spoof making light of their introduction by claiming “Megakey Company has announced a new line of computer keyboards that accommodate five languages.”
The story continues “Based on the standard QWERTY keyboard most familiar to North American, South American and European continents, the Megakey keyboard will contain an additional 327 keys arranged in circumference around the existing layout. The key groupings will include Russian Cyrillic, Japanese Kanji, Chinese Hanzi, Arabic Script, and U.S. Redneck Phonetics.”
To read the humorous posting on The Spoof website, see www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s5i62751.
There were tears and cheers as the ICANN board unanimously voted to introduce internationalised domain names (IDNs) at the conclusion of their meeting in Seoul on Friday. Continue reading Tears and cheers greet ICANN's approval of internationalised domain names