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Where our team of guest writers discuss what they think about the current trends and issues.

    Emma Naylor
    Emma Naylor
    PR Manager

    Up and app them

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    15 Feb 2010

    ICANN: The day the Internet Changed

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    It was a historic day for the Internet today as the first non-Latin web addresses went live, as net regulator ICANN ( Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) switched on a system that allows full web addresses that contain no Latin characters.

    With the World Wide Web truly now going global, Arab countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the first countries to have so-called "country codes" written in Arabic scripts.

    The next step is to to allow web addresses in many scripts including Chinese, Thai and Tamil.

    Over two years in the making

    The decision was made back in October last year, when the annual ICANN meeting decided in Seoul that seeing as half of the 1.6 billion people that use the internet speak languages with non-Latin script, it made sense to allow non-Latin-script web addresses.

    The proposal was first approved in June 2008, but it has taken over two years for testing of the system to discover it is feasible. The move, which as been described as the biggest change to the way the internet works since it was created 40 years ago, might see the first Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) made available next year.

    The first stage of the project saw the internet's Domain Name System (DNS) changed, so that it could recognise and translate non-Latin characters. This enabled non-Latin domains to be read as computer-readable numbers, or IP addresses.

    ICANN's senior director for internationalised domain names, Tina Dam, didn't undersell the significance of the moment saying it was "the most significant day" since the launch of the internet.

    "It's been a very big day for ICANN, more so for the three Arabic countries that were the first to be introduced", she said to BBC News.

    In an official ICANN blog, it was announced that the three new suffixes are Arabic script domain (Egypt: مصر,Saudi Arabia: السعودية, United Arab Emirates: امارات) and "will enable domain names written fully right-to-left." One of the first websites with a full Arabic address is the Egyptian Ministry of Communications.

    Several countries, such as China and Thailand, have workarounds that allow computer users to enter web addresses in their own language, but these do not work on all computers.

    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".

    ICANN said it had received 21 requests for IDNs in 11 different languages, including Chinese, Russian, Tamil and Thai. Website owners in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will now be able to apply for web addresses using the new country codes.

    ICANN have said that new domains were "available for use now" although it admitted there was still some work to do before they worked correctly for everyone, but stressed that these were "mostly formalities".

    Relevant articles:

    The future of the Internet | ICANN to get freedom from US | Google to become network provider

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