"Non-Latin IDNs will Change the Web"

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Nov 17, 2009

What do you think has brought about this decision by ICANN?

IDNs in non-Latin characters have been on the cards for a couple of years now. The reason it has taken so long is the vast impact that this launch will have on the internet as a whole and the usage of domains in general. There has been a huge amount of R&D that has gone into building the infrastructure behind IDNs and in fact the Indian government has been actively involved in this process.

The need for it is obvious, people communicate in various languages around the world and since the internet is truly global, it only makes sense to give people the liberty to use the Internet in the language of their choice.

Won’t giving people the power to create websites in regional & national languages lead to segmentation of the Internet?

Even today you can create websites in regional & national languages. The only change will be that right now the web address (Domain Name) for these websites are in Latin characters but once non-Latin IDNs are launched even the web address (Domain Name) will be in the regional/national language. So instead of shaadi.com you will have <(in hindi) shaadi.bharat) or something like that.

Also, the internet and Internet users are already so varied that segments already exist. In China and Japan, they mainly use local languages for websites that cater to local audiences. Having said that, all mass media today have segments and it is only natural for the same to happen on the internet.

Consider a case –  a person creates a site called ‘go gle.com’. Will this be possible and won’t it create confusion?

Well this problem already exists, it is called a ‘homograph attack’. In fact, if you go to go gle.com it takes you to a non-Google website. Brands and companies will just need to pick up their brand names in IDNs to protect themselves from impersonation.
To protect against such issues most browsers today display the address in punnycode (try in any browser[http://xn--80aahjj1e.xn--p1ai./]). IE7, Firefox and Opera even give you the option to switch off IDN support in the browser.

What is punnycode? - Without getting too technical - every non-English character has a series of English characters associated with it which allows the browser to find the IDN website. This series of English characters is called punnycode. So the punnycode for go gle.com is xn--gogle-kua.com.

For enterprises, what are the obvious benefits and the things to watch out for?

The biggest advantage is that enterprises can now target audiences better and widen their reach on the internet to non-English speaking audiences. It also makes the adoption of the internet easier and hence increases the potential of online businesses in India.

When do the registrations open and what will be the registration procedure? When can we see the first non-Latin’ domain names?

ICANN has announced that IDNs should be available early next year and add the time it will take for us to implement it post that, I think  we can expect non-Latin domain names mid next year.

The procedure will not be any different from the current process, our resellers will be able to sell IDN domains directly from their websites along with our current offering.

Do you expect the Indian government to switch to Hindi domain names for government institutions?

I don’t think they will need to switch but I think they will definitely add language options to their current websites. So you will probably have <(in hindi) railways.bharat> point to the Hindi version of indianrail.gov.in.