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ICANN to Test International Domain Names
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is finally beginning to test top-level domains containing non-Latin characters. Some commentators and ICANN representatives have suggested that the new domains, if they function properly, will herald one of the biggest changes to the Internet since its inception.
International domain names (IDNs) in 11 languages will begin in pilot studies next week. These languages include Arabic, Chinese (both simplified and traditional), Russian, Persian, Hindi, Korean, Greek, Yiddish, Tamil and Japanese. ICANN says that Internet users who speak these languages have shown the most interest in launching IDNs.
Testing will be done by giving web users access to wikis, whose pages they will be allowed to add to and edit in their own languages. The introduction of IDNs will allow Internet users to write their whole Domain Name in their own language. Many have been demanding the addition of IDNs for years, saying that the Westernised version of the Internet with which we are all familiar enhances the digital divide and excludes people from using the Internet to their best advantage. Up until now, only 37 characters have been available to create domain names. If these new IDNs are added, there will be literally tens of thousands of characters for registrants to choose from (although Westernised TLDs such as .com and .org are unlikely to allow additional characters).
Some commentators are concerned about the new TLDs, however, worrying that they will increase the opportunity for fraudulent practices such as the creation of phishing websites. This is something that will only be possible to monitor once the domains have been launched to be registered by the public.