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Non-alphabet web addresses for China et al

Billions more people are likely to join the online action soon

From next year, internet users in the roughly 50 per cent of the world that doesn't use the Roman alphabet will no longer have to struggle with the ABCs of domain names after web authorities voted to allow other scripts.

The latest board meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to permit so-called Internationalized Domain Names in writing systems such as Japanese, Chinese and Hebrew.

Applications coming soon

The immediate upshot of the decision is that ICANN will start taking applications on 16 November for suffixes that will replace the likes of and .org in countries that don't use the alphabet.

After that, most likely early next year, internet users in those countries will no longer have to rely on search engines to find what they want or typing in mostly meaningless – to them - strings of characters in alien scripts.

Billions of new users

ICANN president and CEO Rod Beckstrom explained the significance of the move, saying that it would "help to bring the first of billions more people online – people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives."