The internet changed on Wednesday in a big way for countries whose official languages are not based on Latin characters.

The Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) flipped the switch on the first internationalized domain name (IDN) country-code top level domains (ccTLDs). In Non-Geek, that means that individuals in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not be restricted to ccTLDs like .eg and .sa.

Instead, they can use ccTLDs based on their native languages. For Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emricates are the first three countries that have received ICANN approval for IDN ccTLDs. 21 additional countries have submitted applications to ICANN for IDN ccTLDs, and 13 of these applications have passed the first phase of the ICANN approval process.

Make no doubt about it: ICANN's move to open up the top level domain system to other alphabets is an important one. Not only is it symbolic, it's quite appropriate given the fact that the internet is now so widely used across the globe. As ICANN president Rod Beckstrom has noted in the past, "Over half the internet users around the world don't use a Latin-based script as their native language."

Enabling IDN ccTLDs will not only be more convenient for many internet users around the world, it will have commercial implications. For instance, businesses will now be able to promote full IDN domain names knowing that they're officially supported. Previously, in an effort to make IDNs available, some countries developed their own IDN solutions which were not officially supported by ICANN, and did not have 100% support across all computers.

For users in countries using a Latin alphabet, being able to view and use the new IDN ccTLDs may require a language pack download, as their computers may not ship with the languages in question.

Patricio Robles

Published 7 May, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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