IDN – finally an Internet Experience that the World can Truly Own
There are nearly two billion Internet users around the world today, many of them native in languages that do not use the Latin script. The use of language font packs to bring Chinese, Arabic or Devanagari in to written webpage content has long been standardized. But there has been one area of the Internet user experience that has never been open to equality in the languages: the one of the naming of domain URLs. The autonomous body that regulates and sets standards for the Internet, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) is now ready to roll out registration for Internet domain names written in scripts like Chinese, Russian and Arabic, by 2010. Internet addresses used to be assigned under a protocol known as the Domain Name System, or DNS; the DNS system still applies today, but it works in conjunction with the new Internationalized Domain Names IDN system that allows native use of foreign languages. How does all of this work?
The DNS system has always only been capable of accepting ASCII or all Latin characters. When you type in a regular Internet address into a browser, the DNS system translates the user-friendly name into a string of numbers that identify the network address the name appeals to. The new IDN system does not replace the DNS system; it merely works with it, by using algorithms like ToASCII and ToUnicode to translate non-ASCII text to ASCII standards. All browsers today have been updated to accept IDNs.
Starting November 16, 2009, countries and language communities can begin to apply for language-specific top-level domain names or country code extensions like.uk or .us. This move while it has been in the making for nearly ten years now, coincides with the way the US government has started to ease its control over the Internet body Icann, paving the way for true autonomy.