Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Arabic language web addresses to be available

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) met in Seoul a few days ago to discuss the proposals to allow web addresses in non-Latin script, opening the way for Arabic and other web addresses.

This is big news, and could impact all Internet businesses in the Middle East, who will first have to acquire the names of their sites in Arabic letters, then decide wether or not to use these domains as their main site addresses, following many years of providing users with sometimes complex latin letter names like “” or “” or even just long words like “”.

It is expected that there will be an approval for initial limited use of "International Domain Names" before the end of the year.

Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's president and CEO, said: “In Seoul, we plan to move forward to the next step in the internationalization of the Internet, which means that eventually people from every corner of the globe will be able to navigate much of the online world using their native language scripts.”

The regional manager for, Baher Esmat, spoke to the press saying that this move will be a a factor in bringing more people in the Arab world online.

ICANN's Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) program is expected to allow the use of characters from other languages such as Chinese, Arabic and Japanese for the complete internet address, instead of just parts of addresses as it is presently.

Baher added that IDNs won't be a solution to all the internet access problems in the region, but will deal with part of the problem and will enable more Arabic content online. Baher goes on to say that certain countries, where people use the Internet mostly in Arabic such as Saudi Arabia or Egypt, the governments are strong advocates for the language, and there would be a pressing need to have IDNs.

According to the latest figures by Internet World Stats, there are nearly 48 million internet users in the Middle East, representing slightly fewer than 3% of the world's online population.

Some commentators and analysts say this is like finally liberating the Internet, as ICANN ends the exclusive use of Latin characters for addresses tomorrow.
This action comes during the week in which the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of the internet's creation in a computer experiment by researchers at the University of California.

This week could also mark the actual birth of the “Arab Internet”.


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