An Internet First: Non-Latin Domain Names

ICANN

For Internet users whose native language does not use Latin characters, this rates as a very big day.

The first three domain names in non-Latin characters were added to the Internet's master directories on Wednesday. This is the first time in the history of the Internet that non-Latin characters are being used for so-called top-level domains. What's more, it also marks the first substantive change to the Internet domain name system since its creation a couple of decades ago.

Final approval for the changes was given last month by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

As you might guess, hyperbole was in no short supply as participants marked the occasion. In an interview with the BBC, Tina Dam, ICANN's senior director for internationalized domain names, described the change as "the most significant day" since the launch of the Internet, adding that "it's been a very big day for ICANN, more so for the three Arabic countries that were the first to be introduced." Speaking with the Associated Press, Egypt's communication and information technology minister Tarek Kamal, called it a "milestone in internet history."

Along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will also number among the first countries to use an Arabic suffix. So far, more than 20 nations have asked ICANN for approval to use non-Latin suffixes.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.