Web addresses to speak all languages

The body that coordinates the internet will allow countries to have address endings that reflect their name, made up of characters from their national alphabet.

Icaan's agreement to issue abbreviations based on a website's territory from next year will soon see non-Latin characters used in online addresses for the first time.

That means that the web will operate in 2010 with URLs ending in Japanese, Arabic, Greek and Cyrillic, ending an effective ban on these characters since its beginning.

Not only does the change make the web truly worldwide, but it also marks the end of many technical tests, as internalised domain names (IDNs) were first approved in June last year.

In fact, IDNs have been talked about since before Icann was around, though the group said it has now completed "years of intense technical testing" to ensure they would be workable.

"The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the internet since it was created four decades ago," claimed ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush.

"Right now internet address endings are limited to Latin characters – A to Z. But [this]…is the first step in bringing the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world online for domain names."

According to ICAAN, languages featuring non-Latin script characters are spoken by over half of the web's 1.6bn users, of which the biggest proportion resides in China.

Applications for IDN extensions will be accepted from November 16, and they are expected to go live next year - assuming the applications meet criteria that Icann has spelt out in guidance .

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