The future of multi-lingual domain names

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted today to allow greater flexibility in how people and organizations choose domain names. In other words, websites will no longer be limited to the standard fare of commercial (.com), organizational (.org and.net), or national (.fr for france, .jp for Japan) domain names. The new system of allowing greater flexibility of how on names one's website promises the introduction of personal names (.bowen for me), niche-specific names similar to the host of smaller domain names like .museum currently in existence, and of course product and brand names.

In addition to this greater general flexibility, ICANN affirmed a commitment to introduce Web addresses in non-Roman alphabets such as Cyrillic, Arabic, and Chinese, a move that has long been sought by different peoples around the world despite some fears that such action would lead to the "Balkinization" of the Internet. ICANN has been experimenting with these non-Roman addresses, and seems to see enough of a desire for such names to continue working on the technical challenges of implementing them.

The organization charged with the oversight of these domain names, ICANN maintains weak ties to the U.S. treasury Department -- a fact that has long been a source of concern outside the United States regarding how the Internet is governed. ICANN last renewed ties with the Treasury Department in 2006, although the Treasury Department enjoyed far less control over the organization than in previous years. A source of much debate, the idea is to eventually make ICANN an independent organization free of ties to the U.S. Government. Currently the plan calls for independent governance in 2011.

Contributed by Aaron Bowen

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