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Domain names to use more languages

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KAI RYSSDAL: The world wide web is about to start living up to its name. The Internet’s truly going global with a big linguistic change in how Web site addresses are written. No longer will it be Latin letters only, as in, .com. The group that manages those web addresses, ICANN for short, is going to allow Chinese characters or Arabic script. Or any other language that uses an alphabet other than English.

Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman has the translation.

Mitchell Hartman: Right now, you can watch Moscow’s Channel 1 on the Internet. But to get there you still have to type “,” even if you’re in Russia, with a keyboard that includes Cyrillic letters. But starting next month, domain names can be written in scripts other than the one the Internet was invented in: English.

Tina Dam: Web addresses will become available in for example, fully Chinese, or fully Arabic or any alphabet that you can think of.

That’s Tina Dam with ICANN, which oversees domain names. She says thousands of companies and organizations — from the from sports leagues to sportswear brands — might need to come up with new URLs.

Dam: If you look at India for example, they have 22 different languages, and they’re spread over I think 13 different scripts.

For a company like Coke, that could mean having to register in each one of those scripts. And having to scramble to get hold of its name in other countries as well, before someone else does.

Dan Ackerman: I’m sure there will something akin to a land rush when they first start allowing people to do this.

Dan Ackerman of the technology Web site CNET.

Ackerman: Big companies already take great pains to make sure they have all their requisite trademarks registered as domain names. If they have to go and look at all that information again in non-Latin character sets, that’s a big job, but I suppose that’s why they have armies of lawyers.

Tina Dam says ICANN is looking for ways to make sure the roll-out isn’t too chaotic or costly for companies looking to protect their good names in cyberspace.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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