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Internet regulator Icann has approved a proposal to allow web addresses to be written in alphabets with non-Latin characters - such as Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Hindi or Russian Cyrillic - something that he says will mean the "biggest change In the operation of the Internet since its invention 40 years ago.
Under this proposal, domain names - such as guardian.co.uk - could be written in other languages and the machines that connect computers across the Internet would understand them in the native language.
The first domains of this type, called Internationalized Domain Names (IDN), could be operational by the middle of next year, said Rod Beckstrom, president of Icann, which is responsible for overseeing the development of these online technologies.
"Of the 1.6 billion users around the world today, more than half use languages with a script that is not based on Latin," said Beckstrom at the opening of the Icann congress in Seoul, South Korea. , this week. Congress has just approved the change after more than nine years of work and two years of testing.
The change means that from now on there will be a universal Internet address code that will work in any language and everywhere. Until now, computers that translate addresses into a string of digits indicating the "Internet address" of the target computers only worked with Latin characters. The new system will translate these addresses regardless of the writing system used.
This could mean a considerable increase in the number of people who will be able to use the Internet directly with keyboards in their own languages, instead of struggling with the letters of the Latin alphabet that are hardly familiar to them.
However, for now, only the domain name can be in a non-Latin script; the suffix, such as .com or .org, must be written in the Latin alphabet.
"It's about making the Internet more accessible and global," Beckstrom said.
Icann will launch a rapid process to approve the plan on November 16, which would mean that the first IDN addresses would be operational by mid-2010.
The first users will probably be Chinese, Arab and Russian operators.
However, embedding IDNs in email will take a little longer.
What will not disappear from web addresses is the "http: //" prefix.
Source: The Guardian Technology