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Old 4th June 2007, 09:14 AM
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It's time to support a multilingual Web

Imagine if each time a Canadian Internet user entered an email or website address, they would be required to include a Chinese or Cyrillic character. For millions of non-English speakers around the world, this is precisely what they experience when they use the Internet as the domain name system is unable to fully accommodate their local language.

Since their inception, domain names have been largely confined to ASCII text, based on a Roman character set used in the English language. While this works well for people familiar with those characters, thousands of other language characters – from French accents to the Greek alphabet to Japanese Kanji – are not represented. This creates a significant access barrier for non-English speakers, who are forced to use the Roman characters for most aspects of their Internet addressing.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the agency responsible for administering the domain name system, has long pledged to remedy this issue by creating "internationalized domain names" (more appropriately described as multilingual domain names). Indeed, nearly seven years ago the ICANN board passed a resolution recognizing "that it is important that the Internet evolve to be more accessible to those who do not use the ASCII character set."

Notwithstanding its stated commitment to multilingual domains, the issue has languished, a victim of indifference and even occasional hostility from ICANN leadership. Last year, after a group of developing countries emphasized the need for faster progress on the issue, ICANN president and CEO Paul Twomey warned that "if we get this wrong we could very easily and permanently break the Internet."

Multilingual domains have also been stymied by opposition from the trademark community, a powerful lobby group within the ICANN system that fears the introduction of new language characters will lead to market confusion and a proliferation of cybersquatting disputes.

ICANN has repeatedly struck committees, held workshops and introduced guidelines, yet there has been little to show for the efforts. Governments have become increasingly impatient with the lack of progress.

At the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society, ICANN critics specifically underlined the need to "advance the process for the introduction of multilingualism in a number of areas including domain names, email addresses and keyword look-up" and to "implement programs that allow for the presence of multilingual domain names and content on the Internet ... to ensure the participation of all in the emerging new society."

While the international Internet community has struggled with the multilingual domain name issue, many countries have prioritized the implementation of local languages within their country-code domain names. In fact, the strongest indictment of international inaction comes from the experiences elsewhere – China, Korea, Germany, Sweden, Greece and Israel are among the dozens of countries that have successfully implemented multilingual domain names within their local domain name system so that Internet users can function in their local language when using country-code domains such as dot-cn (China) or dot-de (Germany) even if the international system is still off-limits.

Canada has disappointingly lagged on this issue. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), which manages the dot-ca domain, should pass one million domain name registrations by early 2008, yet implementation of French language characters is only likely to take place in the next few years.

CIRA has faced community pressure to address the issue. Multilingual domains were raised as a concern at a 2003 CIRA public forum in Halifax and again at a 2004 CIRA public forum in Calgary. At each event, CIRA indicated that the issue was a priority and promised action by 2006.

By August 2006, the government of Quebec decided that it had waited long enough. In a letter to the CIRA Board (I was a member of the board at the time), it delivered an official request for multilingual domains to allow for the use of French language characters.

Most of the world – including thousands of Canadians – are literally locked out of the domain name system by reason of limitations in language. With an ICANN meeting set for later this month in Puerto Rico and the CIRA annual meeting scheduled for early September, the time has come to prioritize linguistic diversity on the Internet by giving multilingual domains the attention they deserve.

http://www.thestar.com/Business/article/221117
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Old 4th June 2007, 10:34 AM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

Reasonable article, but yet again, the author has missed something vital i.e. the fact that IDNs do actually exist, kinda a crucial omission
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Old 4th June 2007, 03:00 PM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

I just sent him a nice note.
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Old 4th June 2007, 03:11 PM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhys
I just sent him a nice note.
lol - I sent him one earlier today. Hope we didn't all send him something ...
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Old 7th June 2007, 10:26 AM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

This has now popped up on the BBC -

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6725807.stm
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Old 7th June 2007, 11:31 PM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

Quote:
Originally Posted by domainguru
lol - I sent him one earlier today. Hope we didn't all send him something ...
I sent him a nice note, and wikipedia "link" about IDNs and punycode.
He is hung up on the fears of what would happen if they put all of the tens of thousands
of words from the languages of the world directly into the DNS root.
No doubt that probably would indeed break the whole DNS system.
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Old 11th June 2007, 03:23 PM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

It's also posted on his blog if anyone would like to comment there too....Some comments already....

http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/2006/135/
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Old 11th June 2007, 03:27 PM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavyBUK
It's also posted on his blog if anyone would like to comment there too....Some comments already....

http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/2006/135/
Theres already an idiot commenting -

What nonsense. Everybody in the world who can use a computer at all is perfectly familiar with the Roman alphabet - trust me; I have been around and I know. They can and do use the internet perfectly well. Basically the current DNS isn't broken, so don't fix it! Keep the DNS system working with the simple formula of twenty-six letters A through Z - nothing above the line, nothing below the line, no diacritical marks, no squiggles, no Cyrillic characters masquerading as Roman characters, no idiocy.
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Old 11th June 2007, 03:46 PM
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Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

I have posted.

Check back later.
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Old 11th June 2007, 04:34 PM
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Lightbulb Re: It's time to support a multilingual Web

Good post Rubber Duck...

Added a post as well - I hope it inspires him to write an article for the business / marketing section as well - then you will see some real attention focused on IDNs...

Ok - was a little overstated... but is a lot of truth in this as well... cheers, Asiaplay
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