Futhure of Non-English Internet
Febuary 2008

Futhure of Non-English Internet

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International Domain Names (IDN) have become the subject of discussion at a recent press conference organised by to spread the word on the inclusion of domain names in various other languages, other than English. Imagine writing an email in Urdu, using Urdu script, an Urdu email id within an Urdu domain and receiving a reply in Hindi, with a Hindi e-mail id, Hindi domain, etc! Well, if the work being done by Afilias is completed sooner  than later, then we should see the Internet truly go international,  along with internationalised  domain names.

Emerging Trends – Shift to the East While domain names are the single  most important way to locate resources on the internet, a look at the limitations placed upon internet access by language will show that 65% of the world’s internet users don’t speak English. As the figures show, about 65% of the world falls outside the English-speaking segment. A case in point being China. In China, 90% of Internet users prefer accessing content in their local language.

However, if you look at the statistics for internet penetration, you will immediately notice that the 65%  of internet users have low penetration rates. This scenario is further  augmented by the fact that it is actually the non-English speaking regions  which contain the largest percentage of internet users as well as exhibit  the maximum growth in terms of internet users.

English                      30%
Chinese                    15%
Spanish                      9%
Japanese                   7%
French                       5%
German                     5%
Portuguese                4%
Arabic                        4%
Korean                      3%
Italian                        3%

How it works

How it works is that when you type in a URL (currently in English), your computer communicates with the ISP Provider, who in turn communicates with a root name server, which authenticates your IP address  and the URL text. The last suffix of the URL is known as a Top Level   Domain (TLD). TLDs include extensions such as:

  • .gov
  • .com
  • .in
  • .med
  • .mobi
  • .org.

Due to technical limitations, top level domain (TLD) names can only be registered  in ASCII  characters. International characters such as
those written in Hindi (Devnagari-based) cannot be interpreted by the DNS, and therefore cannot reside in a domain name registry as a  registered name.

The standard governing IDN names is known as ‘punycode’ and is an international standard that was adopted in 2003. Punycode translates words containing non-ASCII characters into an ASCII string that can be registered by the domain name registery and resolved through the DNS.

Bi-lingual keyboards, instant  messaging or chat or mobile phone text messages (SMS) are some aspects of ICT that have already started moving towards non-English formats.

However, in the case of e-mails, specialised setups are required. Also, while the text may contain native language characters, the e-mail addresses themselves are not.

Afilias is no stranger to IDN, having launched the first standards-compliant script in the .INFO domain, back in 2004. Due to the various scripts and languages used in India, plus the fact that many of them have very similar characters (22 official languages involving 12 different scripts), development of IDNs of India’s .IN domain is being worked on in  consultation with Government organisations such as, Department of Information Technology, NIXI, CDAC and ICANN. From the Government’s side, issues  such as maintaining the sovereignty (such as linking domains such as .BHARAT with .IN);

elimination of security threats such as cyber terrorism,  and of course, access to the Internet in regional  languages.

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