The polygot web
Mapping the internet as it goes truly global (Image: Matthew Hurst/SPL)
Imagine what browsing the web would be like if you had to type out addresses in characters you don’t recognise, from a language you don’t speak. It’s a nightmare that will end for hundreds of millions of people in 2010, when the first web addresses written entirely in non-Latin characters come online.
Net regulator ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – conceded in October that more than half of the 1.6 billion people online use languages with scripts not fully compatible with the Latin alphabet. It is now accepting applications for the first non-Latin top level domains (TLDs) – the part of an address after the final “dot”. The first national domains, counterparts of .uk or .au, should go live in early 2010. So far, 12 nations, using six different scripts, have applied and some have proudly revealed their desired TLD and given a preview of what the future web will look like.
The first Arabic domain is likely to be Egypt’s and in Russia orders are already being taken for the country’s hoped-for new TLD. The address HOBЫЙyЧеНЫЙ.pф – a rough translation of “newscientist” with the Cyrillic domain that stands for Russian Federation – can be registered today.