Help test internationalized domain names 2007-10-15

As I mentioned over a year ago (More writing systems for Internet addresses), Internet domains are biased towards English speakers. You have to use only the Latin alphabet (without accents), Arabic numerals, and hyphens (all English ASCII characters) for Web site and E-mail domains. After seven years of research and workshops, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is ready to start testing internationalized domain names (IDNs).

You can help on Monday, October 15, 2007

Visit the links on their page to the test domains in:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese (simplified and traditional characters)
  • Greek
  • Hindi
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Persian
  • Russian
  • Tamil and
  • Yiddish.

Within their own country codes (.cn, .jp, etc.), some countries have been using their own writing systems for domain names since 2003, but they’ve still been stuck with the top-level .cn, etc. Even accented letters are a tricky thing. Just this week Spain, within .es, added accented vowels, tilde-n, and more.

China has gone further and added Chinese-character top-level domains: .公司 (.gongsi, .com; “company,” “corporation”) .网络 (.wangluo, .net; “network”), and .中国 (.zhongguo, .cn; “China”).

Now ICANN wants to make those sort of non-ASCII domains accessible for Web surfers who aren’t in China (and avert the surfing errors that could happen with multiple, separate internets).

Why the delays?

Aside from the technical difficulties and possible indifference to other languages by the American company ICANN ( [EDIT (6/6/10): dead link], there are also the fears of trademark holders and opportunities for spoof domains using similar-looking letters from languages like Greek and Russian.

But let’s look to the future. Onward to an Internet for all writing systems!

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