New Domain Names To Have Non-English Characters

Dennis Faas's picture

The body that controls the way website addresses work plans to allow non-English characters to be used in domain names. The move follows increasing demand for the change, thanks to the rapid growth of Internet use in largely non-English-speaking countries, like China.

At the moment, the only characters allowed in domain names are those in the Latin alphabet; that is to say, those used in languages such as English, French and German. Those who use languages based on other alphabets, such as Russian or Chinese, must use special software that lets them type on keyboards (with their own alphabets) after which the program translates it to English. However, this workaround isn't widely used and has limitations.

Latin Alphabet Now A Minority Online

Even though the Internet has traditionally been most popular in the Western world, Rod Beckstrom, the head of ICANN, said that today more than half of the 1.6 billion people online use a non-Latin alphabet. (Source:

ICANN approved the principle of extending names to other alphabets last year but had been exploring the possible technical solutions for some time. It now has a plan for introducing the changes.

The plan would mean individual countries will be able to apply for recognition of the language and alphabet they use. If approved, there will then be a separate register of domain names under that alphabet. If the plan gets the go-ahead at a conference this week, countries will be able to apply to have their alphabet recognized from November 16th, 2009.

ICANN No Longer Under U.S. Watch

ICANN had previously been under the official oversight of the United States government, but recently signed a deal to give it much more independence and instead be overseen by an international committee.

This week's conference in South Korea will mark the 40th anniversary of a connection between computers at two university departments in California. That's widely seen as the birth of what became today's Internet. (Source:

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