Thailand's National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) and The Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) will choose Thai words that connote dot-com, dot-org, and a host of other Internet address extensions in the domain name system (DNS).
By using technology that interprets Thai script, U.S.-based i-DNS hopes to stimulate wider use of the Internet in Thailand and thereby make it a more effective tool for e-commerce and corporate branding. The company began operations in Thailand in February on the premise that the DNS's English language standard prevents many Thais from using the Internet.
"If you have a link in Thai," Tan said, "they will understand and it will increase the benefit of the Internet, making it easier for the Thai user."
Internet penetration is low in Thailand, where there are an estimated 200,000 Internet users among a population of about 62 million. While economic hardship may be a more prevalent reason for low Internet usage, Than considers Thailand a prime example of a country where the language barrier has hindered further expansion of the Internet.
Establishing Thai domain names requires more than transliteration, Than says. Foreign brand names that are difficult for Thais to pronounce have not always fared well in Thailand, so Than is eager to submit to local authorities for direction on how his company might present the Thai equivalent to words such as dot-shop or dot-store. "We have to keep in touch with local sentiment," he said.
"We don't want to tell the Thai people what the translation of dot com is in Thai," said Edwin Than, business development manager for i-DNS. "We don't think we have the right to regulate anything in the Thai language. We don't want to be Microsoft and tell people they should do something. The Thai people feel very strongly about this, as they should."
To introduce Thai-language domain names, i-DNS has consulted with Thai Internet service providers (ISPs) CS Internet, KSC, and Loxinfo, as well as with government agencies to introduce local-language domain names. The company currently offers domain names for dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org that use a mixture of Thai and English.
Later this year, i-DNS will announce strategic partnerships with one or more of these ISPs to set up domain name registries. The ISPs will handle all marketing functions while i-DNS will provide technology and expertise.
The decision to come up with a standard for i-DNS to follow has already been delayed by the Thai government since July. "Unfortunately the process has been dragging on a bit," Than said. "I remain hopeful, but I'm not sure this will be the last meeting."
i-DNS is not alone in the Thai domain name market. ThaiURL.com, a Thai firm, offers a browser plug-in that uses existing DNS technology. i-DNS, however, hopes to lead the market in the reworking of DNS servers to accept requests in numerous languages rather than simply translating addresses on the end user's computer.
"Our approach is different because to modify all servers is very difficult," said Pipat Yodprudtikan, Managing Director of ThaiURL.com. "If you use one system that works for 30 years, if you want to change the system it takes time. Our approach is to cooperate with the existing system first."
i-DNS has similar multilingual operations in China, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, India, Australia, the U.S. and Egypt.