Web addresses go global

The World Wide Web is going through historic change and will soon be a truly representative of its name. This will have far reaching effects for both users and a web design agency like MintTwist.

Net regulator Icann has switched on a system that allows full web addresses to contain no Latin characters, which their president (Rod Beckstrom) has described as “historic”.

Surfing the UAEEgypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the first countries to have so-called “country codes” written in Arabic scripts.

This move is the first step to allow web addresses in many scripts including Thai, Tamil, and Chinese.

More than 20 countries have requested approval for international domains from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).

Icann has said that the new domains are available for use now but did admit that there is still some work to do before it is perfected and correctly working for everyone. They may be formalities but hopefully there will be so major delay or setback.

Teething

The introduction of the first web names using so-called country code top level domains (CCTLDs) is the culmination of several years of work by the organisation.

Whereas before websites could use some non-Latin letters, the country codes as .cn for China had to be written in Latin script. The historic change means that web addresses can be completely written in native characters.

Teething - Painful but unavoidableBefore you get too excited, Icann has warned that the internationalised domain names (IDNs) will not work on all PC’s immediately. Why exactly is unclear but most likely is that the service will be phased in gradually. By doing so the process is u much easier task to manage.

According to Icaan, “You may see a mangled string of letters and numbers, and perhaps some percent signs or a couple of “xn--“s mixed into the address bar,” said Mr Davies. “Or it may not work at all.”

Previously, Icann has said that people would have to update the software on their computers to view the domains.

“Computers never come with the complete set of fonts that will allow it to show every possible IDN in the world. Often this is fixed by downloading additional language packs for the missing languages, or specifically finding and installing fonts that support the wanted languages.”

Global Access

When Icann first announced its plans for non-Latin web names it said it was the “biggest change” to the net “since it was invented 40 years ago”.

Perhaps this should have been rephrased as “arguably the biggest change”, especially when you consider that it is yet to be perfected. Over time, this will no doubt grow and become a massive part of the internet but it has a way to go yet.

Mr Beckstrom has quite rightly said that “Over half the internet users around the world don’t use a Latin-based script as their native language, “IDNs are about making the internet more global and accessible for everyone.”

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