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Regulatory Body Approves New Multilingual Web Address System

October 30, 2009

A new multilingual address system received approval from a global regulatory body on Friday, a move that could open up the Internet to millions more people worldwide, AFP reported.

The announcement from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will see an end to the exclusive use of Latin characters for website addresses.

It said that it would soon be possible to write an entire website address in any of the world’s language scripts.

Scripts such as Chinese, Korean or Arabic will eventually be usable in the last part of an address name after the introduction of “internationalized” domain names (IDNs).

The current technological restrictions mean all domain names end in letters from the Latin alphabet.

Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the current move was only the first step in a historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet.

“We just made the Internet much more accessible to millions of people in regions such as Asia, the Middle East and Russia,” he added.

In the beginning, IDNs will only be allowed on a limited basis involving country codes such as .kr for Korea. But their use will soon be expanded to all types of Internet address names.

“The introduction of IDNs follows years of work and study and to see it finally start to unfold is to see the beginning of a historic change in the Internet and who uses it,” said ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush.

The change signifies that the Internet belongs to everyone, no matter what language they speak, Beckstrom said.

“The Internet is about bringing the world together and this will facilitate that effort,” he said.

The move was approved a day after the 40th anniversary of the Internet’s birth in a computer experiment by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Thrush called the new measure the biggest technical change to the Internet for 40 years.

More than half the world’s 1.6 billion Internet users use languages with scripts that are not Latin-based, according to ICANN.

IDNs will begin accepting applications by November 16 and the first is expected to be operative by mid-2010.

Last month, ICANN, a non-profit body formed in 1998 by the US government, was given more autonomy after Washington relaxed its control over how the Internet is run.

Friday’s approval is not simply aimed at enhancing convenience for Internet users using different scripts, according to Beckstrom.

He told The Associated Press it was also an issue of pride of people and their own culture and their own language, and a recognition that the Internet belongs to everyone.

“It’s a shared resource. So I think it’s a really exciting step for all of us.”

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