[lg policy] Cairo: New Net domains break language barriers

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 25 14:00:37 UTC 2010

New Net domains break language barriers
By TAREK EL-TABLAWY (AP) – 20 hours ago

CAIRO — The use of non-Latin characters in Internet addresses is a key
step to opening up the Web and making it more "personalized" for
billions of users, the head of the nonprofit body that oversees
Internet addresses said Monday. Rod Beckstrom, CEO of the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, said around half of the
people using the Internet do not use Latin script. But the recent
approval of Arabic and Russian characters for domain name suffixes
will help bridge that linguistic barrier and encourage more users
online, he said. "This is part of the Internet becoming more truly
global," Beckstrom told The Associated Press on the sidelines of an
event celebrating the introduction of such suffixes in Arabic. "We see
this just opening up and making the Internet more global."

"It seems to be a more important offering for the psyche of people.
Our language is part of our culture and our identity, and having ...
the ability to express our domain in our chosen language is something
that people feel very powerfully about," Beckstrom said. Earlier this
month, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Russia become
the first nations to get Internet addresses entirely in non-Latin
characters. Egypt, for example, secured the right to the ".masr"
domain (written in Arabic). The step marked a fundamental shift in the
Internet domain name system since its creation in the 1980s.

Until the approvals were received for Arabic and Russian, websites had
to end their addresses with suffixes like ".com" that were written in
Latin characters — a restriction that posed challenges to expanding
the reach of the Net to people who could not read such script.
Beckstrom, in comments echoed earlier by Egypt's Information
Technology Minister Tarek Kamel, said lifting the language barrier
would allow new and unprecedented access to the Internet. Kamel told
reporters earlier Monday that of the 60 million mobile device users in
Egypt, only about 17 million were online. The new system would greatly
boost those numbers, he said.

"Now we have a stronger reason for inclusion, for bringing them and
making them part of this revolution that is happening worldwide,"
Kamel said. Beckstrom said that Arabic is the seventh most common
language currently on the Internet. That figure reflects the rapid
growth in Internet use in the Mideast, where technical issues and
political constraints have at time served as serious impediments to
the expansion of the Web in the region. While Egypt was among the
first to submit an application last year for the new domains, other
nations have jumped in, as well.

ICANN said it has received a total of 21 requests for such domains,
representing 11 languages, since it began accepting applications in
November. Beckstrom declined to say when additional approvals could be
made, noting that the process of setting up the domains took years of
technical and policy work. "It takes some energy to do the work on the
technical script selection," he said, listing just one of the
challenges countries must tackle before getting their domains

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