Non-Latin versions of “.com” and “.org” won’t be permitted for at least a few more years as ICANN considers broader policy questions such as whether the incumbent operator of “.com” should automatically get a Chinese version, or whether that more properly goes to China, as its government insists.
ICANN also is initially prohibiting Latin suffixes that go beyond the 37 already-permitted characters. That means suffixes won’t be able to include tildes, accent marks and other special characters.
And software developers still have to make sure their applications work with the non-Latin scripts. Major Web browsers already support them, but not all e-mail programs do.
In China, Guo Liang, a researcher who studies Internet use for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the government’s top think tank, questioned whether all Chinese will embrace the new domains.
Although the move will reflect linguistic and cultural diversity, Guo said, “for some users it might even be easier to type domains in Latin alphabets than Chinese characters.”
China has already set up its own “.com” in Chinese within its borders, using techniques that aren’t compatible with Internet systems around the world.
Most Chinese and Japanese computer users write characters in their native scripts by typing phonetic versions on a standard English keyboard.
China is among a handful of countries that has pushed hardest for official non-Latin suffixes and could be one of the first to make one available, said Tina Dam, the ICANN senior director for internationalized domain names. The other countries, she said, are Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
About 50 such names are likely to be approved in the first few years.
The Internet’s roots are traced to experiments at U.S. universities in 1969 but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that its use began expanding beyond academia and research institutions to the public.
The U.S. government, which funded much of the Internet’s early development, selected ICANN in 1998 to oversee policies on domain names. ICANN, which has headquarters in the United States in Marina del Rey, California, was set up as a nonprofit with board members from around the world.
Beckstrom said Friday’s approval is not simply aimed at enhancing convenience for Internet users using different scripts.
“It’s also an issue of pride of people and their own culture and their own language, and a recognition that the Internet belongs to everyone,” he told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s a shared resource. So I think it’s a really exciting step for all of us.”