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Old 28th September 2008, 01:42 PM
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Chinese, Arabic and Hindi domain names to go up for sale – finally!

A few months old but a good read. Amazing to me still that these writers have NO idea that IDNs have been around as early as 2000 as .com, .net, .cn, .jp, .tv etc. Nice comment about Indian domains...she got that one right.

Chinese, Arabic and Hindi domain names to go up for sale – finally!
by Melissa Chang- 07.08.2008

QUOTE: At its recent meeting in Paris, ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names, the organization that controls the assignment of domain names – made a number of announcements. The one that received the most press was the revelation that there would be new generic top level domains (gTLDs) available in 2009. A gTLD is the letters that come after the dot in a URL string – such as .com, .biz or .org. Any and all new gTLDs will be considered starting next year. This news overshadowed the other announcement that was made at the meeting. Specifically, that international domain names (IDNs) will soon be able to include non-Roman characters. This was by far the more important announcement.

Currently, all domain names use exclusively Roman characters. This means that although countries may have their own Country Code (ccTLD), such as .cn (China), .in (India) or .ru (Russia), the domain names are rendered in Roman characters – not in the language that is native to that country.

The historical reason for this is simple – the technical foundation that was needed to be able to render domain names in non-Roman languages did not exist. This is because the domain name system relies on ASCII, which is based on the English alphabet. The decision by ICANN to allow non-Roman character IDNs will only be possible once domain names can be based on Unicode, a standard that allows the majority of the world’s languages to be represented correctly by computers. The effort to make this change is being worked on and tested currently. There are a few issues related to rendering some characters due to technical instability and unavailability, but Unicode characters should be ready to fast track come 2009.

The debut of domain names in languages that don’t rely on the Roman alphabet is a major international development. No longer will Chinese Web sites have to rely on domain names that are rendered with Roman characters while the rest of the site is in Chinese. Take a look at, the leading search engine in China. The site is in Chinese – except the domain name, which uses Roman characters with the .cn country code extension.

This is not unusual. Many countries that have official languages with non-Roman alphabets have snatched up existing domain names. In the list of the countries with the most domain names registered, seven of the top 20 countries – China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Bahrain, India and Russia – speak a non-Roman language natively. These countries, which are already big investors in domain names, will likely begin buying up new non-Roman domain names once the IDNs are available. It remains to be seen if they will consider their original investments a waste as they scurry to purchase even more domain names in their local languages.

Aside from this, the opening of domain names to non-Roman characters should open the Internet to more people than ever before. Consider India. According to a Domain Name Industry Brief from VeriSign:

“India, with more than 41 million Internet users, ranks as the eighth largest Internet population in the world. Yet, with such a large population, this represents only about 4% of the Indian population. The number of Internet users is growing rapidly, 25% in the last year alone. As the number of Internet users continues to grow and Internet adoption increases, India is emerging as an increasingly important country for domain names.”

You can bet that the new non-Roman domain names will be a direction that India will head quickly once the resolution takes effect.

As the world’s population shifts, and the languages based on the Roman alphabet continue to decline in dominance, this decision will only continue to grow in importance.

Melissa Chang is the founder of Pure Incubation, an Internet incubator
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