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14 Jan, 2008 06:58

Are Web domains in Russian, Arabic, and Chinese on the way?

The internet could soon be burst wide open to a broad spectrum of alphabets, including Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic. Testing of domain names in non-Latin alphabets is being carried out by the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

At the moment, whatever language you speak, you have to enter a Web address in the English alphabet.

An Internationalised Domain Name (or IDN) contains characters from non-Latin scripts like Russia's Cyrillic.

It's a pilot project led by ICANN, a public-private partnership, which guides internet policy on web addresses.

Last autumn it began testing 11 non-Latin scripts, using collaborative Wiki Web sites.

Tina Dam, Director of IDN Program, explained the reason behind the IDN Wiki testing plan.

“It's to enable the introduction of IDN top-level domains, and so that means the domain name will be fully in Cyrillic characters and not in Latin characters as it is today,” Tina Dam said.

A Russian organisation would ultimately take over the registration of .рф domains.

Many Russian Web sites currently use the dot.RU country code. But Cyrillic could transform how businesses reach out to their Web audience.

Examples include films and the arts, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and services, and the tourism and leisure industries.

Director of the Coordination Center for TLD RU, Andrey Romanov, said people often carry out internet searches after they've seen billboard ads or heard something on the radio.

“Problems  arise when trying to figure out how to translate something from one’s native language into a Latin URL that has been assigned to a particular company or concept,” Romanov said.

Some Internet users question why Cyrillic domain names are needed. Most computer users have some knowledge of the Latin alphabet, and there is scepticims that script-specific addresses would offer anything new.

General Director of Begun in Moscow, Aleksey Basov, says Cyrillic domains are attractive to people who want to penetrate potential markets.

“Cyrillic domains reflect recent trends which attempt to reach out to parts of the population that are not comfortable using the English-language international standard,” Basov said.

That's already happening with the Russification of computer software and games.  Technology is not always driven by things we need, rather by finding out what we can do – and revealing new capabilities.