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Language Barriers Preventing Many People From Going Online

Online, www.bbc.co.uk, 10 April 2001 --

Listen to the report from Duncan Bartlett (Real Audio)

The internet has run into a language barrier.

Although its dominance by English may have helped its initial US-led growth, that is now preventing many people from going online.

And nowhere is the problem more keenly seen than in the names of websites.

The internet is packed with information in almost every language.

But there is a major problem with providing website names in anything other than English, particularly if you use a script which bears no resemblence to English characters.

For example, it is difficult to type in addresses in Chinese, Korean Japanese or Urdu.

And that is preventing people in many countries from embracing the internet.

Michael Ng, chairman of Singapore based i-DNS which arranges website registration in a variety of languages, said:

"Before e-commerce takes place in a country, it is important to know that multi-lingual domain names do help to bridge the traditional divide and get more people in the local countries to be on the internet."

"The Chinese and Japanese want to trade, talk and exchange information across the net in their local languages."

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is supposed to be the international organiser for websites.

It says a lack of good translation technology leaves a danger of names becoming muddled.

Computers turn the characters you type into your keyboard into Ascii files which your computer can then understand.

And sometimes, what look like very different names to human beings appear the same to machines.

That has led to occasional disputes between, for example, Japanese and Chinese entrepreneurs who have both picked the same web address without realising it.

But the Chair of the Internet Architecture Board John Klensin says these Ascii system has serious limitations:

"At the moment, a web URL must contain a fully qualified domain name and those names can be registered only in an identified character set containing only upper and lower-case letters."

The problem is most keenly felt in Asia, where the demand for local language webnames is enormous.

Matei Mihalca, head of Asia Software Research at Merill Lynch based in Hong Kong says it is hampering business:

"As time goes by the internet will prove itself and traditional companies are going to be more attracted to it.

"But there is a lot of bad press and advertisers think it is not something they want to do - they want proof that it will be effective."

The internet is so huge, it is difficult to keep track of all the new websites which are appearing.

But for it to reach its full potential, it must become truly multi-lingual.

"For the internet to reach its full potential it must become multi-lingual."

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

죄송합니다. 이 페이지는 아직 한글화되지 않았습니다.

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