The non-profit body that oversees Internet addresses approved on Friday the use of Hebrew, Hindi, Korean and other scripts not based on the Latin alphabet in a decision that could make the Web dramatically more inclusive.
The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — or ICANN — voted to allow such scripts in so-called domain names at the conclusion of a weeklong meeting here. The decision follows years of debate and testing.
The decision clears the way for governments or their designees to submit requests for specific names, likely beginning November 16. Internet users could start seeing them in use early next year, particularly in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts in which demand has been among the highest, ICANN officials say.
Since their creation in the 1980s, domain names have been limited to the 26 characters in the Latin alphabet used in English — A-Z — as well as 10 numerals and the hyphen.
Many of the estimated 1.5 billion people online use languages such as Chinese, Thai, Arabic and Japanese, which have writing systems entirely different from English, French, German, Indonesian, Swahili and others that use Latin characters.
There will be several restrictions at first. Countries can only request one suffix for each of their official languages, and the suffix must somehow reflect the name of the country or its abbreviation.