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…(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.