ICANN getting ready to approve non-Latin web addresses

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or ICANN) is expected to approve a new system this week that will allow for website addresses with characters other than those based on the Latin alphabet. Peter Dengate Thrush, the chairman of the ICANN described it as being "the biggest change technically to the internet since it was invented 40 years ago"

Although the news is unlikely to affect the majority of Neowin readers, the internet as a whole currently has over 800 million users speaking languages with non-Latin alphabets. The proposed International Domain Name (IDN) system could potentially allow for alphabets from a wide variety of cultures, including Cyrillic, Chinese, Kanji, Korean and Greek. Considering the large number of people that would benefit from a system like this, the change seems well overdue, but the ICANN haven't rushed into this. "We're confident that it works because we've been testing it now for a couple of years", Mr Thrush said, "and so we're really ready to start rolling it out."

Based on a new system of scripts capable of converting the characters to find the right address, the IDN could be up and running as soon as mid 2010. The ICANN expect to come to a decision of the proposal this Friday.

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FWIW & IMHO ICANN couldn't put it off much longer, as English being dominant + the absence of non-Latin alphabets (as it was put), gave additional ammo for propaganda put out by governments wanting to control the Internet. Political correctness -- even if justified -- is very often a disguise to hide real motivations, in this case the power and cash that comes from regulation, not to mention silencing the opposition. While English-centric folks talk about blocking character sets for security, many governments no doubt are breathing a sigh of relief as their job blocking western sites becomes easier.

I also imagine individuals & smaller companies will have even more fun trying to track © abuse/violations etc... To help justify blocking western sites, saying there's no need to go there, it only makes sense that some countries would engage in wholesale clone & censor.

IDNs in latin domains were actually allowed long time ago.

The point of modern movement is to introduce non-latin country code top level domain. First will be Cyrillic ccTLD Table with .рф and .бг domains at the begining. There are at least 14 countries uses Cyrillic alphabet and a lot of international organizations - UN, IMF, EU, CIS etc. So new tables will need for non cc TLD domains as well. Analogs for .com, .eu, .net, .org, .gov etc. Some countries have large Cyrillic communities, like Japan, China, Baltic countries, USA etc. They will need for Cyrillic ccTLD as well. So the table will be large enough.

This just seems like one giant headache to me. I don't want to have to type or think about using characters not on my keyboard, and I don't want to be forced into worrying about clicking a link made to looks like something else, but isn't (some of those damn ascii characters are very misleading). If this is something so important to other countries that haven't already adapted to latin letters (Japan and Katakana for example), then it needs to be made obvious, different prefix or suffix for example.

Will this require operating systems to support all these extra character sets now? Try typing (or even viewing) something like Japanese on a Windows machine that doesn't have the right language support installed.

Sounds like a bad idea all round to me.

protocol7 said,
Will this require operating systems to support all these extra character sets now? Try typing (or even viewing) something like Japanese on a Windows machine that doesn't have the right language support installed.

I would guess that it won't really matter to most folks... If you need whatever language setup you already have it (or should). Trying to think of content that would/could become more restrictive, the only thing that occurs at the moment is that some posted research might become harder to get at as or if some Universities for example feel no need to continue maintaining their current domain names... a gap I'm sure Google is more than willing to fill.

Its a good idea in theory---people should able to use their native language for a web address if the page is in that language---but one caveat is that it will affect users of all languages. If you ever have to do something like block a domain name for a spam filter, for instance, you'll have to deal with domains in any number of languages.

Well that depends. I think most spam filters would allow you to block by character sets or language so you could block anything outside of English if you're at a company that doesn't operate internationally.

Actually, I do that for my mail servers although my companies do operate internationally I'm still able to block languages such as Turkish or Greek since nobody uses them and we don't communicate with anyone in those countries. If we ever do then I can lift the quarantine. I know for me these language blocks take out a fair amount of spam.

But what if you actually do want to communicate with someone out of the country. If they have a different alphabet their e-mail server will likely have a foreign language domain. So you would either have to whitelist them, or they would have to get some latin alphabet email server just to communicate with you.

A solution might be to have multiple domain names for a single IP address, with a latin alphabet domain and a native language domain.

Now you need more keyboards? Special key combos. The internet was brought together under one language, and has been successful. Now, it'll be messy.

I see your point however I don't think it affects many of us since those of us that speak English will pretty much stick to the English URL's and websites.

More keyboards? There are already keyboards in other languages. Some have the latin characters and non-latin characters on the same keys.

99.9% of the time, the www. prefix can be omitted.

I think it goes back to the days when the www was just emerging and was "seen" as an on-par technology with other services such as Gopher and FTP. Back then YOU DID type ftp.whatever.com or gopher.whatever.com, so why not www.whatever.com?

It will die just like the http:// stopped being placed at the beginning of web addresses. The standard has become so much larger than the other internet standards, that it is just assumed.

I think this is awesome.
Finally, accent marks and special characters in URL's

While it does open things up to more phishing attackes as Nighthawk said... I feel that other countries would actually benefit from this.

Oh, and to Jambo's comment... if you have to copy-paste the character in the URL and don't have it mapped to a key on your keyboard.... you prolly won't be affected by this ;-)

Kinda proves that nobody types the URL in, with some exceptions such as in mobile browsers for the first time.
Who would ever want to google for alpha...
go to the wiki page for alpha character...
Copy the symbol...
Copy it into the URL and visit the website.

n_K said,
I can't believe this got approval, absolutely stupid, should never have been allowed.

It hasn't got approval yet.

Its fine in principle but I think for it to work any "similarities" shouldn't be allowed... basically an "É‘" would be considered as an "a" and "É‘pple.com" would therefore already be registered.

Of course the new domains that would be available would be very welcome by many countries and most would pose no problem.

Things like óòo should all be classed as the same.

n_K said,
I can't believe this got approval, absolutely stupid, should never have been allowed.

The Russians, Greeks, Chinese, Japanese .......
would beg to differ, I bet they would love to enter web site addresses in their natural alphabet


I can't believe this got approval, absolutely stupid, should never have been allowed.

Spoken like a true глупак who thinks English is the only language. Actually, it would be great; here in Bulgaria some websites would be alot easier to remember if they were in Cyrillic.

Actually, this is already possible with punycode. Phishers have been using this attack vector for some years now. For example, "www.mañana.com" will be decoded to "www.xn--maana-pta.com" so all you have to do is register the "xn" domain then you can use the encoded domain to start tricking people.

It's all been done before. Nothing new at all