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Multilingual domain names promoted

Online, infoworld.com, 22 August 2000 -- ARABIC DOESN'T TRANSLATE well in Web addresses, and neither do Japanese, Hebrew, Chinese, Swedish, or any of dozens of languages with letters absent from a standard Roman-lettered keyboard. The Internet is global, but Web addresses are not, a state of affairs that domain registrar Network Solutions (NSI) says it intends to improve.

NSI Tuesday said it would start a test program allowing 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 (ICANN). California i-DNS.net International, which developed a system for the Domain Name System to recognize non-ASCII characters, will supply the technology for the test, NSI said. Among the languages that will be supported are Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and Hebrew.

"When the vast majority doesn't use English and doesn't use ASCII -based characters, it's a significant problem," said Brian O'Shaughnessy, an NSI spokesman. "People who write in Urdu or Chinese should be able to use the functionality of the Internet."

About 95 percent of the people in the world do not speak English as their primary language, and about 70 percent of those online do not speak English, O'Shaughnessy said, noting that the issue is particularly pressing in Asia, the fastest growing area for Internet use.

Although there are perhaps millions of Web pages with non-English language content serving audiences in their native tongues, all require Roman characters in their Web address. Some sites, such 13579.com registered to Dozo Development, in Taiwan, use numbers rather than letters in the address to alleviate confusion. "Numbers make more sense to a Chinese speaker than a domain name with English letters," O'Shaughnessy said.

Several organizations are working toward a solution, O'Shaughnessy said. ICANN held a five-day summit in July in Yokohama, Japan to help resolve the issue. The Multilingual Internet Names Consortium, formed by a group of Asia-Pacific Internet associations, discussed ways to implement non-English domain names on the Web.

The test will start sometime in the fourth quarter, O'Shaughnessy said.

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