Other Alphabets Coming To The Internet

The domination of the Latin alphabet on the Internet is expected to come to an end this week.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is meeting this week in Seoul, South Korea, and is all but sure to approve international domain names - i.e., domain names that can be written in alphabets other than the one English uses. ICANN is the  "not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world ... [that] develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers." In other words, it's the closest thing the lawless Internet has to a governing body. Formed in 1998, ICANN coordinates the creation of ISPs and domains so that people can actually find what they're looking for. While it can't "control" the Internet, it does force some sort of organization on the online world.

Alphabets including Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Greek, Hindi, Japanese and Korean have been mentioned as potential domain languages.

Internationalized Domain Names could come to the Internet by year's end, ICANN said, which could vastly increase the number of users in areas outside the Western world, particularly.

Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's president and CEO, noted the importance of the move in a prepared statement issued ahead of the meeting, which lasts through Friday:

This is an extremely important meeting for ICANN, since the IDN program is moving one step closer to reshaping the global Internet landscape. In Seoul, we plan to move forward to the next step in the internationalization of the Internet, which means that eventually people from every corner of the globe will be able to navigate much of the online world using their native language scripts.

So don't be surprised if, soon, you start seeing web addresses you can't even type into your browser because your keyboard doesn't have the characters. Cut and paste should work just fine for those, though.