Multi-Language Domains Set to Revolutionize the Web

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has launched a live IDN (International Domain Names) evaluation, testing domain names in 11 international languages, in a bid to revolutionize the internet so that it is more widely acceptable for users who prefer to access the internet in their own languages. Hence, the project will allow users from around the world to browse the World Wide Web in their own mother tongue, without having to use any English or the Roman alphabet when they type in a URL.

To illustrate how this initiative will have profound political and web implications; we must first comprehend our current system on par with the new system. Presently, our domain name system permits domain names with letters from the alphabet A-Z. For instance, we now can only have a domain name, that readshttp://www.{English}.{net, com, etc}/{foreign language}, where the foreign language portion of the URL can be achieved as long as the individual website servers supporting the URL have the proper script in place.

However, even though domain names are partly allowed in foreign characters, people have long argued that the web is discriminatory and non-accessible in its entirety. For instance, Michael Geist, who teaches Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, asks us to “think of what it would be like if every time you typed out an e-mail address or visited a Web site you had to use Chinese characters or Sanskrit. That’s exactly like what people in other countries have to do.” Furthermore, several nations, including Saudi Arabia and China, have created their very own domains in different alphabets along with their own internets that can allow surfing without going through the United States controlled ICANN servers. In fact, there is also an outrage over ICANN rejecting the .xxx domain extension, which could have easily helped filter out pornographic sites in searches.

The recently introduced IDN system will now allow users to access domains entirely in their native languages, where URLs could read as http://www.光盘.net/大. Unfortunately, the URL still needs to end in a .com or .net spelled out in ASCII characters. The 11 languages supported by the IDN system are Arabic, Persian, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Russian, Hindi, Greek, Korean, Yiddish, Japanese and Tamil.

The current system has VeriSign controlling all domains ending in .com, which translates to roughly half of the domains of the World Wide Web. That could all change as there is bound to be much political disagreement over which nation, corporation or geographic area should have control over the IDN specific to a particular nation. On the other hand, if a particular region decides to ban a particular domain due to political reasons or even ban all english domains from being used by its nation’s people then who is to confront those decisions.

Thus, considering that there are great global economic opportunities, possibilities for poor judgement along with the social benefits of global interconnectivity; the decision of control is bound to be one of much confusion. Nevertheless, we are yet to see if the all powerful United States still holds monopoly over the World Wide Web.

Click here for the actual test of 11 wiki pages and here for the ICANN annoucement

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