The first Internet addresses containing non-Latin characters from start to finish will soon be online thanks to today's approval of the new Internationalized Domain Name Fast Track Process by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board.
"The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the Internet since it was created four decades ago," said ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush. "Right now Internet address endings are limited to Latin characters ? A to Z. But the Fast Track Process is the first step in bringing the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world online for domain names."
ICANN's Fast Track Process launches on 16 November 2009. It will allow nations and territories to apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name ? and made up of characters from their national language. If the applications meet criteria that includes government and community support and a stability evaluation, the applicants will be approved to start accepting registrations.
"This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet ," said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's President and CEO. "The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs in the domain name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online ? people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives."
IDNs have been a topic of discussion since before ICANN's inception. It's taken years of intense technical testing, policy development, and global co-operation to prepare the Fast Track process for its coming launch.
"Our work on IDNs has gone through numerous drafts, dozens of tests, and an incredible amount of development by volunteers since we started this project. Today is the first step in moving from planning and implementation to the real launch," said Tina Dam, ICANN's Senior Director for IDNs. "The launch of the Fast Track Process will be an amazing change to make the Internet an even more valuable tool, and for even more people around the globe."
The first applications for IDNs will be accepted by November 16 and the first is expected to be operative by mid-2010.
More information of the Fast Track program is available online at: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/idn/fast-track/
ICANN, a non-profit body formed in 1998 by the US government, was last month given more autonomy after Washington relaxed its control over how the Internet is run.