WSJ on IDNs – What’s the Hindi Word for Dot-Com?

Last week the Wall Street Journal had a detailed looked at Internationalised Domain Names (IDN) and the then impending launch this week of the evaluation by ICANN. As the report notes, people with English keyboards, or as they neglect to say also those not with a keyboard in the language of the IDN, won’t be able to type in the address, rather, they will be able to access these IDNs through links from other sites or search engines.IDNs have come about as “Internet users outside the U.S. in recent years have clamored for the right to have domain names in their own language. They argue their Internet culture and usage are hindered by the requirement to learn English.”IDNs have been developed since 2000, but progress has been slow “due to technical considerations and bureaucratic delays in trying to coordinate so many entities in different countries. Some critics of the process said that since Icann is based in the U.S. it wasn’t a priority.”The WSJ goes on to say:
Having lost their patience, some countries, most notably China, South Korea and some Arabic-speaking nations, as well as private entities in Europe, have created domain names in their own languages, using non-Roman letters, independent of Icann. These separate systems, known as alternative roots, can create online confusion, with duplicated domain names or multiple addresses for the same sites.“The Arab countries don’t want alternative roots,” said Baher Esmat, a former official in Egypt’s ministry of communication and information technology and now a Cairo-based representative of Icann. “We just want our country codes in the Arabic language — if that happens, then there is no reason to continue” with the alternative roots, he said. Country code refers to the domain name assigned to each country, such as dot-uk for Britain.In Egypt, about seven million people, or 10% of the population, use the Internet, according to Mr. Esmat. Most of the users are well-educated and speak at least some English. To get the next 10% of the population online, however, having domain names in Arabic is critical, he said. The Egyptian government is moving ahead with various e-government initiatives, such as online applications for driver’s licenses, that likely would catch on only if the Web sites were entirely in Arabic, he said.“The potential users are not able to use the Internet unless it’s in their native language,” said Mr. Esmat.To read the entire article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.

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