Seven years ago, ICANN, the organisation that is in charge of assigning domain names, told the world that it would internationalise internet domain names. Just last year, ICANN began testing the new system after three years of development and today, the organization announced that the first sites using fully internationalised domain names will be accessible to internet surfers on Monday.
Prior to this announcement, the use of non-Roman characters (otherwise known as internationalisation) was allowed in any section of a domain name before the top level. In other words, any and all websites that operate on the Internet must use Roman characters (.com, .org, .net, etc.) to end the domain name. Prior to those characters, any alphabet can be used. According to ICANN, the new development will allow a website in any country to feature its native alphabet across the entire domain name.
Roll out will go slow
According to ICANN, it wants to roll the system out slowly and has decided to release a single set of sites that are capable of internationalisation. ICANN explained that the new test sites would be capable of accessibility in eleven alphabets: Arabic, Persian, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Russian, Hindi, Greek, Korean, Yiddish, Japanese, and Tamil.
Internationalisation has been a pet project for ICANN for quite some time. Since its inception, the organization realised the need for people in any country to browse the Internet in their native language without resorting to the use of the Roman alphabet when accessing Web pages. Unfortunately, there is still no indication when the full internationalisation plan will go completely live and ICANN is quick to point out that the use of punctuation marks and other non-alphanumeric symbols are strictly prohibited in domain names.
More than likely, those countries that do not use the Roman alphabet will feel the true effect of internationalization. And although most in those countries are currently able to remember a few instances of English, ICANN believes it could also help bring new Web surfers up to speed much sooner.
In fact, an Egyptian government official was recently quoted in a Wall Street Journal article saying that domain internationalisation could be the reason why the "next 10 percent" of his country will get online.
ICANN has not disclosed how it will plan on rolling out the plan for internationalisation, but most speculate that it will not become a reality for quite some time.