Friday, October 12, 2007

Domain names in other scripts

The Washington Post is reporting that ICANN is experimenting with URLs in other scripts. This is good news. For people that do not read or write in a language that uses the Latin script, it is a big handicap to have to type for instance http://ar.wikipedia.org also http://ar.ويكيبيديا.org is problematic. In order to enable people, you have to have the whole string in the appropriate script.

From a localisation point of view, this is one of the ultimate challenges. Consider; the .org has two components, the dot (.) and the org. The org needs an equivalent in all scripts. This top level domain or TLD is just one of many. The ISO 15924 defines many scripts and, a particular combination that is auspicious in one language can be the equivalent of wtf in another. Choosing these codes is not trivial. There are not only TLDs but also ccTLDs or country code top level domains.

We have agreed that ويكيبيدي is Arabic for Wikipedia .. Wikipedia is very much an international movement. We have agreed that Wikipedia is to be used for the Latin script in our domain name. The question is, if ويكيبيدي will be accepted to represent Wikipedia in the Arab script and, when there are multiple ways of writing Wikipedia, do we need to register for all these domains?

To make it even more confusing, what will the rules be when it comes to domain squatting. I can imagine that a brand is only registered for one script and not necessarily for another. I wonder what the position of the WMF will be; I am sure that it has not been considered yet.

ICANN is courageous, they are now experimenting with the technical issues and this will show that it can be done. I expect that the next part will be a proposal on how all the top level domain names are to be "transscripted". Then, it will become interesting because from that moment onwards the Internet will be truly global in its reach and no longer centered on one language or script.

Thanks,
GerardM
Post a Comment