A while back The ICANN decided that English, or actually, the Roman Alphabet, was not to be the only way that domains could be named. The ability to use Cyrillic, or Kanji, or any other major character set could be used, which would simplify things for the speakers and readers of those languages.

The time has come, and the first among what will no doubt be many are available –

[ComputerWorld]

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has approved the first four country-code domain names written in non-Latin script, it announced Tuesday.

All existing top-level domain names are written using the "Latin" alphabet, the 26 letters from A to Z. That system is fine for Internet users in English-speaking countries, but not for those countries for which the official language is written using other scripts, such as the Russian Cyrillic characters, Arabic script or Chinese pictograms. European countries such as Österreich (Austria) or España (Spain) also have problems with the Latin alphabet, as they use accented characters to spell their official name in their own language.

There are several kinds of top-level domains (TLDs): generic ones (gTLDs) such as .com, .net or .org, special-purpose ones such as .aero or .museum, and the two-letter country code domains (ccTLDs) such as .fr (France) or .uk (United Kingdom).

The first four countries to be allowed to write their country-code top-level domain names in their own script are Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They will also retain their existing Latin-alphabet ccTLDs such as .ru (Russia).

Other countries awaiting approval for ccTLDs in their own scripts include China, Jordan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

For some years, ICANN has been working on an enhancement to the DNS (Domain Name System) to allow internationalized domain names (IDNs), or domain names written in non-Latin scripts. There are a number of technical challenges — most notably that the DNS infrastructure is designed only to handle domain names written with the Latin alphabet.

The IDNs, regardless of the script or language they represent, will all be stored as a series of Latin characters beginning xn-- followed by an encoded sequence representing the name. Thus, the IDN for Russia will be stored as xn--p1ai while that for Egypt will be stored as xn--wgbh1c.

For those of us who are into amateur radio, a couple of those look like call letters from far away places. The xn-  codings will no doubt mystify many, but I’m sure there will be charts available.

It will be left to the browser or other client software to convert the underlying TLD into the appropriate script for display. ICANN hosts a test page to check whether a browser already support this function.

Yes, following the link takes you to the ICANN wiki, where languages (well, language, there was 1 for me…ever heard of Ge’ez?) you never knew about are shown.

So now there will be more to know about the domain names, and those who learn will have a much easier time of getting around in some (for most of us) out of the way places. It also will allow us to get to places previously unreachable – thank goodness IPv6 is well on the way.

The world may be getting smaller due to some technologies, but thanks to ICANN, the internet is getting larger.

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