October 26, 2009

ICANN Approves Multilingual Web Addresses

Internet regulation group ICANN says it is on the verge of finalizing plans to allow the use of Wed addresses with non-Latin characters.

The plan was initially approved in 2008 and would allow for domain names to be written in Asian, Arabic and other characters from various languages.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said the plan would be completed on Friday following the group's conference in Seoul.

"This is the biggest change technically to the Internet since it was invented 40 years ago," said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the ICANN board.

ICANN president Rod Beckstrom said the new concept would begin in mid-2010, but applications for new international non-Latin domain names can begin coming next month.

"It will take some period of time to process the applications and then introduce the successful applications," he told reporters.

"Of the 1.6 billion Internet users today worldwide, more than half use languages that have scripts that are not Latin-based," he added.

"So this change is very much necessary for not only half the world's Internet users today but more than half, probably, of the future users as the Internet continues to spread."

Also, the new system requires that Web addresses ending in ".bank" would have to be reserved for authorized banks.

"Consumer confidence can be greatly enhanced," said Thrush.

Additionally, the new system would "save roughly 60 to 100 billion human keystrokes a day" by eliminating keystrokes needed for Web addresses that end in country codes.

"You have to appreciate what a fantastically complicated technical feature this is," Thrush added.

"What we have created is a different translation system."

"We are confident that it works because we have been testing it for a couple of years," he added. "We're really ready to start rolling it out."


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