Yesterday at the Internet Governance Forum, which is being held in Egypt, Tarek Kamel announced that Egypt would put forth the first domain name to take advantage of the recent ICANN revision that allowed for non-Latin scripts to be used in Internet domain names. The domain, .مصر, which is Latinized as .masr, essentially means .Egypt in English.
It will be interesting to see how the roll out of non-Latin domain names will affect the makeup of the Internet. In theory, it makes sense to allow people to type in their own languages and scripts to use the Internet. I know that I would find it annoying to type in things like ووو.گوگا.کم every time I wanted to visit a website, so it’s not hard to see that something like http://www.google.com would be tricky to someone who could write in Urdu but not English.
Of course one of the fears relating to this expansion of domain possibilities is that with an increased character set to work with, spoofers could fool users into going goهgle.com or 丫ahoo.com instead of google.com or yahoo.com. And it gets even trickier when dealing with Cyrillic and Greek characters, some of which are indistinguishable from Latin ones.
Another issue is that diversifying the characters allowed to be in a web address makes the web more inaccessible, as someone who can’t type in Arabic wouldn’t be able to access a .مصر website very easily. However, I don’t think that will be a major problem, as web pages that seek to be registered with non-Latin domain names probably are not seeking to cater to an English speaking audience (or an audience whose language uses a Latin script) at all, thus not being of much interest to those who can’t access it.
I suspect that for multilingual websites, a domain using Latin script will still be the best option, but the diversification of available scripts for domain names will make the web more accessible in areas where the dominant language doesn’t have an alphabet starting with ABC.