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Does your domain speak my language?

Online, CMPNetAsia.com, 11 September 2000 -- The Internet is poised to be global, but the majority of Web addresses are still confined to an English-centric space. This scenario is not expected to sustain long. In the new ’Net economy, a handful of customers are already craving for localised domain names in their own local languages, resulting in soaring industry efforts in developing an international multilingual domain name standard across Asia.

According to i-DNS.net, an US-based multilingual Internet technologies and solutions provider, non-English Internet users currently comprise an estimated 40% Internet users worldwide, which will be projected to increase to 60% Internet users worldwide by 2003.

In fact, over 90% of the people in the world do not speak English—and this issue is particularly pressing in Asia, the fastest-growing area for the Internet market.

However, signs of the development of multi-lingual domain names have been seen across the region.

For instance, one of the largest international domain name registrars recently announced that the company would be running a test programme that will allow registration of multilingual domain names in 55 languages and character sets through the 60 or more registrars accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

The Internationalised Domain Name System (i-DNS), the new technology behind the multilingual domain name, can allow Internet users to benefit from the flexibility and choice of language available.

Previously, domain names could only be rendered in Roman or English characters. With multilingual domain names, each new registrant will be able to register and use a domain that better targets their Web audience while preserving their linguistic roots and unique ’Net identity.

In the meantime, Chinese domain names have topped the agenda of the Internet industry in the region as well. For example, registration of Chinese domain names in Hong Kong began in early January this year, using technology that promises to expand the Web far beyond its English-language foundation. In fact, the registration of Chinese names began last December in Taiwan and started in January in Singapore.

Proponents of Chinese domain names said they will help to open up the Internet to a huge market of users and companies that can only read Chinese or prefer using their own language to English.

However, before all Internet users of the Web will be able to benefit from the flexibility and choice of language available, the lack of Internet standards for multilingual DNS technologies, which are still evolving at the Internet Engineering Task Force level, remains one of the major hurdles of the global accessibility of Web addresses.

-- i-DNS.net shall not be held liable for the views and opinions of the authors expressed herein.
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