More than three years ago ICANN, the global body that oversees the operation of the domain name or website address system, cleared the ground for the introduction of a broader web address regime covering local languages.
It might be possible to start having entire web addresses that end with ‘.Bharat’ in a clutch of Indian languages a few months from now, as the preparation for the launch of this new dispensation on the Internet has reached the final stages.
However, the challenge remains to popularise the use of local languages for website addresses and also get the players involved in the domain registration business to technically equip themselves to handle the new regime.
It was more than three years ago that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global body that oversees the operation of the domain name or website address system, cleared the ground for the introduction of a broader web address regime covering local languages. After years of discussion and preparation, ICANN had cleared in 2009 the use of non-Latin languages at the topmost level - the concluding part of the web address following the dot, like .com or .org, for example.
In the initial phase, ICANN had allowed, after technical tests, the introduction of a limited number of internationalised country-code top level domain names (IDN cc TLDs) — website addresses in different languages ending with the names of the respective countries. The process of adding more and more languages is still on.
In India, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, in consultation with the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), had proposed a policy by which the Devanagari script-based languages (Marathi, Hindi, Konkani, Sanskrit and Nepali), Gujarati, Oriya, Punjabi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Assamese and Bangla were to be made part of the ccTLD regime in phases. It was to eventually include all official languages, including those using Perso-Arabic scripts such as Urdu, Sindhi and Kashmiri.
The equivalent of ‘.Bharat’ had been proposed as the top level domain name for most of these languages, with the equivalent being ‘.Bharatam' in the case of certain languages like Sanskrit and Malayalam and ‘.Hindostan' in the case of Urdu.
However, it was to be ‘.India' in the case of Tamil. ICANN had technically cleared the possible use of the .Bharat top level domain name for the first set of Indian languages - Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil a couple of years ago.
The time frame for the launch of the new .Bharat dispensation in these languages was being worked out and it was likely to be rolled out in a “few months time,” said Dr Govind, CEO, National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI). The launch was planned in phases as originally conceived, and included a soft launch period, followed by a sunrise phase lasting eight weeks, and the formal public launch. During the sunrise period, trademark owners, registered companies and owners of intellectual property will be given an opportunity to protect their online identities. During the public launch phase, registration of website names in the Indian languages will be provided on a first-come-first-served basis.
A testing platform for deploying web addresses with the .Bharat domain name in these languages had been available since mid-2012 but the take-up from companies that register and market domain names had been "slow but steady" , said Ram Mohan, Chief Technology Officer of Afilias, whose company had in collaboration with NIXI, been operating the testbed
There was a challenge in getting "registrars, resellers and their sub-resellers implement the necessary software to support IDNs and the representation of domain names in local language," he said. He also referred to the challenge of "educating users about the value and benefits of web addresses in their local languages - many users in Chennai, for example, don't know how to type in Tamil on their computer keyboards."
In the meantime technical experts also had to grapple with what has been described as the variants issue - the confusion arising from the use of differing characters in a language to represent the same web address. The issues connected with the use of variants had been worked out, Dr Govind said.
This article has been replaced with an elaborate version.