Soon, the web will have addresses in Indian languages with domain names such as .Bharat. While the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will have the framework in place for this in a few months, players involved in domain registration may find the new regime challenging. Popularising the use of local languages for website addresses may be another hitch.

It was more than three years ago that the 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. 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) and Gujarati, Oriya, Punjabi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Assamese and Bangla would 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.

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,” said Ram Mohan, Chief Technology Officer of Afilias, which collaborates with the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) on testing the web addresses.

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 the confusion arising from the use of differing characters in a language to represent the same web address.