x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Internet domain first for UAE

The UAE will become one of the first countries to launch domain names in non-Latin characters later this year, telecommunications regulator says.

Mohamed al Ghanim, the director general of the TRA, said the new domain names will allow users to work with Arabic content online.
Mohamed al Ghanim, the director general of the TRA, said the new domain names will allow users to work with Arabic content online.

The UAE will become one of the first countries to launch domain names in non-Latin characters later this year, the country's telecommunications regulator says. Domain names - the internet addresses that end in ".com" and other suffixes - are the most common monikers behind every website, e-mail address and Twitter post.

But until now they have been limited to 26 characters in the Latin alphabet, 10 Roman numerals and the hyphen. "We have been allowed to go for international domain names for Arabic," said Mohammed al Ghanim, the director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Egypt and Saudi Arabia have also been approved to provide domain names in Arabic, he added, while Russia had been selected to manage domains with Cyrillic characters.

Mr al Ghanim said the new domain names would be aimed at driving regional users to produce and access Arabic content online. It is estimated that only 1 per cent of all online content is in Arabic, the fifth-largest language in the world. "When you do a search for the Arabic content, when you do a search for the UAE, you will get English websites," Mr al Ghanim said. "But when you do it in Arabic, it will show you a list of all the websites that have got the Arabic domain names."

In their respective non-Latin scripts, the UAE plans on using the ".Emarat" suffix, while Saudi Arabia will use ".AlSaudiah", Egypt will use ".Egypt" and Russia will use ".rf". Mr al Ghanim said the TRA was working with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to allocate the ".Emarat" domain name within the organisation's global databases and finalise the necessary protocols for its release. The four new domain names are set to be finally approved and launched on the Web by the middle of this year, said the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit body that oversees internet addresses.

"These international names will now allow people to type entire domain names in their own language," said Rod Beckstrom, the chief executive and president of ICANN. "This marks a pivotal moment in the history of internet domain names." The four countries were the first to be approved by ICANN following a successful technical test last month that checked whether there would be any confusion with other domain names.

ICANN said it had received a total of 16 requests, representing eight languages, for new internationalised domain names. Munir Badr, the owner of AEserver, a domain-name registrar based in Dubai, said the introduction of a new domain name in the UAE would create competition with the ".ae" country code address. "It's a good idea for national pride, but I don't think it's exactly the right time," Mr Badr said. "Maybe a few years after the '.ae' market picks up." More than 200,000 ".ae" domain names have been registered with the TRA as of last December, Mr Badr said.

"The most important thing is that the domain is in Arabic letters and opens a brand new window for those people who are computer illiterate and do not speak English," he said. "They can finally have the internet in their own language." @Email:dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae