CAIRO: The most important organization that no one knows about is, this year, forging ahead with a plan that will fundamentally reshape the way you use the internet.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a global not-for-profit group that, with oversight from countries around the world, is responsible for laying out many of the rules of the road that govern internet use in our world.
The group was started in 1998 largely as a US entity. But a joint project agreement in 2006 spread governance of the organization to countries around the world.
For all the work that ICANN does, though, it has heard one complaint from web users and internet companies more loudly than the rest.
As much as websites may produce content in any language on earth, they have never been allowed to register domain names entirely in non-Latin alphabets.
ICANN has put together a final approval it’s hoping to get passed by the full board in the coming months that would allow users to register full domain names in, say, Arabic.
That means allowing the portion of a web address to the right of the dot (like .com or .net), which is called the generic top-level domain (gTLD), to be in non-Latin script also.
“The impact [of adding new scripts] will probably differ from one place to another, said Baher Esmat, regional relations manager for ICANN. Arabs “still suffer from a decent lack of content in the Arabic language.
Esmat said he expected a country like China, which already has a strong content base in its native language, to take to the IDN program faster.
The gTLD program has already given the countries the right to individualize the content to the right of the dot. Egypt, for example, uses .eg. Now, though, Egypt is in a position to replace .eg on Arabic sites with, perhaps, the country name spelled in Arabic.
This innovation, though, won’t be limited to individual countries, nor to non-Latin scripts. New York, for instance, has already announced it will apply for a .nyc code.
This sort of change will be open to anyone who goes through the application process. This means, conceivably, that individual businesses will be able to establish their own gTLDs.
“There have to be small to medium businesses that come up with the business of domain names, Esmat said.
Asked which languages would be supported by the new plan, Esmat said any language supported by Unicode.
As this program takes off, Esmat said he’s hopeful that it will increase internet penetration around the planet.
For those who don’t use Latin script, navigating a Latin character-based internet can be a challenge. ICANN’s new plan, if approved, will make it easier for many to peruse their favorite sites.