Net Addresses Expand Beyond Roman Alphabet
July 15, 2013

Net Addresses To Include Russian, Chinese And Arabic

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

While the Roman Empire fell in the west in the 5th century, many aspects of it endure to this day - notably its alphabet, on which the English alphabet is based. As English remains the lingua franca for much of the global Internet community, most top-level domains on the Internet have been based on the Roman/English alphabet as well, but that could change.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced this week that it has signed agreements that will bring Chinese, Russian and even Arabic domain names to the net. At this week's 47th meeting in Durban, South Africa, ICANN said that three companies signed registry agreements that would very much change the top-level domain process. This approval will reportedly enable these companies to operate four generic to-level domains (GTLDs).

The ICANN 47 will further see the creation of five new ICANN Strategy Panels, which will serve as an integral part of the framework for cross-community dialogue on strategic matters the group announced on Monday.

This move to new GTLDs has been seen as controversial as it could move Internet addressing from a small number of well-know, top-level domains - which include .com, .net and even .us - to a significantly larger number. The Washington Post reported this week that by summer's end the new domains, which could include such notables as .buy and .casino, would go live at a pace of 20 or more each week.

This has reportedly created a scramble as investors strive to gain control of this new Internet real estate, which the Post noted could be worth potentially billions of dollars in annual licensing fees. Some new domains, even those with seemingly generic sounding words won't be available for everyone. This could include such domains as ".canon," as that would be associated with the camera maker.

Those with brand names have objected to the GTLD expansion, however, as it could raise the expensive trademark protection process. Back in the early days of the web, tech journalist Josh Quittner infamously registered before InterNic changed its registration process. In the end Quittner sold the name to the fast food giant and donated the money to charity.

However, more generic names, including .music, could be potentially used by anyone.

The other half of this issue is that the new GTLD could make it easier for some people to see web addresses in their native languages - those that don't use the Roman alphabet.

On Monday ICANN announced steps that could make this internationalization possible. According to Cnet, International Domain Registry will operate a domain with the Arabic word for "web" or "network," while Core Associations will operate two domains,  one with the Russian word for "online,"and the other with the Russian word for "web site." Spring Field will operate a registry with the Chinese word for "game."

"We can see the last mile before the first new (top-level domain) is activated in the Internet's root," said ICANN Chief Executive Fadi Chehade in a statement.

The rush is already on, as Cnet reported last month; Google has already applied for 101 new domains, including - expectedly - .google.