Egypt plans to be the first nation to have a domain name using Arabic script. The announcement from Information Technology Minister Tarek Kamel on the first day ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) launched the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process. IDNs are domain names that include characters other than the currently available set of the English alphabet.
Late last month, ICANN voted to allow nations and territories to apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name - and made up of characters from their national language. Once the requests are evaluated and approved, Internet extensions are expected to come online in many countries during 2010.
ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush noted in a statement, "The IDN program will encompass close to one hundred thousand characters, opening up the Internet to billions of potential users around the globe."
IDNs have been a topic of controversy since before ICANN's inception with disputes periodically erupting over the stability and security of the DNA (Domain Name System) if non-Roman characters were introduced into the system. ICANN has taken years of intense technical testing, policy development and global co-operation to prepare the Fast Track process.
"This is the biggest technical change to the Internet's addressing system - the Domain Name System - in many years," said Tina Dam, ICANN's senior director of Internationalized Domain Names. "Right now, it's not possible to get a domain name entirely in, for example, Chinese characters or Arabic characters. This is about to change."