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June 20, 2011 8:13 pm

Domains to take non-Latin script

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The expected explosion of new domain name registrations will not be limited to the Roman alphabet.

Under the new plans from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, non-Latin scripts such as Japanese and Cyrillic can also be used in web addresses, allowing addresses to end with “almost any word in any language”.

This means that users of sites such as the Russian social networking hub Vkontakte, or the Chinese search engine Baidu, will be able to access them without using the western alphabet. More than half of internet users use other scripts.

“Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new top-level domains in any language or script,” said Rod Beckstrom, Icann’s chief executive.

The use of non-Latin web addresses has already been introduced to a limited extent.

On May 6 last year, Icann introduced Arabic-language suffixes for the country codes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “All three ... will enable domain names written fully right-to-left”, said Kim Davies of Icann.

Other countries, such as China, have introduced systems allowing addresses to be entered in their respective language and converted into Latin characters. However, these were not internationally approved and often failed to work properly.

The growth of non-Latin web addresses will strengthen concerns, previously mentioned by Icann, about a “split” in the internet between the users of various languages – many users will not be able to view addresses in other languages unless the appropriate language pack is installed on their computers.

The introduction of new characters could also create opportunities for fraudsters. Microsoft, for example, will need to guard against the possibility of criminals looking to trick consumers through a .Mïcrosoft domain.

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