New languages for an expanding Web

Computer user views website

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: The ever-declining dollar helped American exporters sell more stuff overseas. Maybe they were selling online, maybe not. But the international language of the Internet is set to get a bit more international.

At the moment, there's only one alphabet in which you can do that WWW thing -- URLs are limited to Roman letters. Not much help to the billions of people who use different alphabets.

Beginning Monday, the Internet will get more globalized. From the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin reports:


JANET BABIN: Beginning Monday, Internet users will be able to type 11 new langauges in the part of the Web address that comes after the dot. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is orchestrating the change.

The U.S.-based nonprofit is under contract to the U.S. government. That's irked other countries that have complained for years that the Internet is too English-centric. Dr. Rafiq Dossani at Stanford says the added 11 alpahbets are ICANN's idea of compromise.

RAFIQ DOSSANI: There was a lot of controversy about ICANN being controlled within the U.S., and they made some commitments to open up to global usage -- and this is part of their commitment.

Among the lucky 11 new languages: Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Greek, Korean, Hindi and Yiddish... Yiddish? Tina Dam is with ICANN.

TINA DAM: We looked at who had participated and who had expressed their opinions. And Yiddish was one of them.

ICANN will test the new languages for months to work out the technical kinks. But eventually, a whole new land rush will kick off -- people will clamor to buy new Internet domain names from authorized companies.

But the added languages are sure to bring up touchy trademark issues, as people around the world try to register names that already have trademarks elsewhere. Michael Froomkin's a law professor at the University of Miami.

MICHAEL FROOMKIN: Historically, there've been lots of people who could use the name Delta in America, right? Delta Faucets, Delta Airlines -- they both want to be Delta. Now magnify that by languages, magnify that by countries, and now magnify that by character sets.

Millions of dollars worth of business for international trademark lawyers... I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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