x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Arabic approved for internet

The non-profit body that oversees Internet addresses approves the use of Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Korean and other scripts.

SEOUL // The non-profit body that oversees Internet addresses approved today the use of Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Korean and other scripts not based on the Latin alphabet in a decision that could make the Web dramatically more inclusive. The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to allow such scripts in so-called domain names at the conclusion of a week-long meeting in Seoul, South Korea's capital. The decision follows years of debate and testing and clears the way for governments or their designees to submit requests for specific names, likely beginning on November 16. Internet users could start seeing them in use early next year, particularly in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts in which demand has been among the highest, ICANN officials say.

"This represents one small step for ICANN, but one big step for half of mankind who use non-Latin scripts, such as those in Korea, China and the Arabic speaking world as well as across Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world," Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's chief executive, said ahead of the vote. Domain names - the Internet addresses that end in ".com" and other suffixes - are the key monikers behind every website, e-mail address and Twitter post. Since their creation in the 1980s, domain names have been limited to the 26 characters in the Latin alphabet used in English, A-Z, as well as 10 numerals and the hyphen. Technical tricks have been used to allow portions of the Internet address to use other scripts, but until now, the suffix had to use those 37 characters. That has meant Internet users with little or no knowledge of English might still have to type in Latin characters to access Web pages in Chinese or Arabic.

Although search engines can sometimes help users reach those sites, companies still need to include Latin characters on billboards and other advertisements. Now, ICANN is allowing those same technical tricks to apply to the suffix. * AP