ICANN Decides To Expand Internet - More Languages
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Establishing a system that allows people to utilize domains in non-Roman characters will definitely be the most difficult thing to accomplish. And the political implications will be far more of a burden than some guy who can't afford to register his brand name. The same nationalistic pride felt when an athlete represents his country at the Olympics will be felt when a person looks up a web address in his native script. Okay, so maybe it isn't that significant, but I doubt China would accept being able to type in the Google website in Japanese and not Chinese.
ICANN has more to worry about than routing difficulties when a new language script is added. For instance, before a script is implemented, all countries that use it must agree on how it will be officially presented in order to prevent confusion. Only 35 percent of the 600 million people who use Arabic script actually speak Arabic, so it's important to iron out the little differences in the way certain numbers and letters are written. And because accents are key to so many languages that do use Roman characters, ICANN will have to decide how to implement them as well.
There's also the question of how many local-script domain names a country can have. Countries with more than one official language or even more than one dialect are complaining that they should not be limited. There is a rule, however, that only allows countries to apply for scripts tied to their official languages, not another country's. But what about scripts that have characters that resemble characters in other scripts? Right now, the Cyrillic equivalent of .ru (Russia) closely resembles py in Roman script, which is the country code for Paraguay. Clearly, ICANN has a number of things to sort out, which is why this issue has been opened to public comment. Another major meeting is scheduled for November.
So what overall effects will these new proposals have? Some say it will only help to divide the Internet into factions bent on serving their own nationalistic purposes. Perhaps. But it will clearly permit millions more users to have Internet access. “Imagine for a moment how inconvenient it would be if the Internet had been invented in China and each time you typed in an address you had to use Chinese characters,” says Edmon Chung, the chief executive of .asia. I'm guessing it would be a lot more difficult to look up Noam Chomsky.
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