ICANN approves non-Latin characters for domain names

SPEAKING IN TONGUES. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is opening the Web to millions of users by allowing the use of any of the world’s language scripts in the domain names of URLs.

ICANN recently voted to put what it calls the “internationalization” of URLs on a fast track for approval. The organization will begin accepting applications Nov. 16, and by next year, domain names — which have been restricted to Latin characters in the form of .com, .org and the like — could be turning up in some of the 100,000 characters in the world’s languages.

The move is a step forward for people whose languages don’t use Latin characters, such as those in Asia and the Middle East. But as with any step forward, some are waiting for the other shoe to drop. One concern is that it will make it easier to spoof URLs.

There’s also the potential challenge of translating URLs for users with Latin-character keyboards. Non-Latin keyboards have the ability to switch to Latin characters through use of a special key, a combination of keys or software that handles the task. But to date, that’s been a matter of translating many character sets to one. How will it work the other way? Translation software-makers figure to see some new business.

Meanwhile, there’s always a bright side. Maybe one of those languages has a better word than “internationalization.”

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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