ICANN Moves Ahead with Multilingual Domains

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers unanimously approves the use of non-Latin scripts such as Hindi and Hebrew in web addresses. The vote comes after years of dispute over how non-Latin characters would impact the security and stability of the domain naming system.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved Oct. 30 the new Internationalized Domain Name Fast Track Process to allow nations and territories to apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name - and made up of characters from their national language. Currently, Internet address endings are limited to Latin characters.

If the applications meet criteria that includes government and community support and a stability evaluation, the applicants will be approved to start accepting registrations Nov. 16.

"This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet," ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom said in a statement. "The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs in the domain name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online - people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives."

IDNs have been a topic of controversy since before ICANN's inception with disputes periodically erupting over the stability and security of the DNS (Domain Name System) if non-Roman charactors 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 for its coming launch.

"Our work on IDNs has gone through numerous drafts, dozens of tests, and an incredible amount of development by volunteers since we started this project," said Tina Dam, ICANN's senior director for IDNs. "Today is the first step in moving from planning and implementation to the real launch. The launch of the Fast Track Process will be an amazing change to make the Internet an even more valuable tool, and for even more people around the globe."