Arabic doesn't translate well in Web addresses, and neither does Japanese, nor Hebrew, nor Chinese, nor Swedish, nor any of dozens of languages withletters absent from a standard Roman-lettered keyboard. The Internet is global, but Web addresses are not, a state of affairs domain registrar Network Solutions Inc. says it intends to improve.
NSI said Tuesday that it will start a test program allowing registration of multilingual domain names in 55 languages and character sets through the 60 or more registrars accredited by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). California-based i-DNS.net International Inc., which developed a system for the Domain Name System to recognize non-ASCII characters, will supply the technology for the test, NSI said in a statement. Among the languages that will be supported are Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic and Hebrew.
"When the vast majority doesn't use English and doesn't use ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) -based characters, it's a significant problem," said Brian O'Shaughnessy, an NSI spokesman. "People who write in Urdu or Chinese should be able to use the functionality of the Internet." About 95 percent of the people in the world don't speak English as their primary language, and about 70 percent of those online don't speak English, O'Shaughnessy said, noting that the issue is particularly pressing in Asia, the fastest growing area for Internet use.
While there are perhaps millions of Web pages with non-English language content serving audiences in their native tongues, all require Roman characters in the Web address. Some sites, like 13579.com registered to Dozo Development Co. Ltd. in Taiwan, use numbers rather than letters in the address to alleviate confusion.
"Numbers make more sense to a Chinese speaker than a domain name with English letters," said O'Shaughnessy.
Several organizations are working toward a solution, he said. ICANN held a five-day summit in July in Yokohama, Japan to help resolve the issue. The Multilingual Internet Names Consortium (MINC), formed by a group of Asia-Pacific Internet associations, discussed ways to implement non-English domain names on the Web.
The test will start sometime in the fourth quarter, O'Shaughnessy said.