Chinese character domain names approved by ICANN
At its 38th international meeting held in Brussels from 20-25 June, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) agreed that domain names could be entirely written in Chinese characters.
Chinese characters in domain names
The Internet's chief domain name authority approved a proposal to begin offering Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) in Chinese script.
The ICANN authorized therefore the establishment of three organizations to implement the country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) associated with the new IDNs in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan:
- CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center);
- HKIRC (Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited);
- TWNIC (Taiwan Network Information Center).
Website operators in Asia are soon going to be able to create domain names written entirely in Chinese characters, including the final TLD.
This approval is a significant change for Chinese language users worldwide. Let me remind you that one fifth of the world speaks Chinese.
Welcome to 中国 top-level domain
While Chinese websites would previously end their URLs with the suffix '.cn', the approval granted to Network Information Center organisations will allow every character of the URL to be written in the Chinese alphabet.
For example, new websites could have their URLs ending with .中国 and .中國 (.zhongguo or .china) TLDs. As planned previously, the campaign will transition existing websites smoothly by automatically assigning the new domain to websites that currently end with '.cn' in China.
At the same time, Hong Kong will get .香港 (.hongkong) and Taiwan will get both .台灣 and .台湾 (.taiwan).
Will you be able to visit theses Chinese URLs ? Yes, on the condition that your web browser is up-to-date. The ICANN has actually a list of foreign character domain names in alphabets such as Chinese and Cyrillic which will be interpreted as a string of English characters by modern browsers.
More non-Latin domain names to come
When the domain name system was set up TLDs such as .com or .cn were written only with Latin characters. However, ICANN has been making a lot of efforts to support non-Latin IDNs for several months.
Earlier this year, ICANN approved applications for Arabic-script IDNs submitted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There are still other pending requests from countries such as Jordan and Thailand to receive their own domains in Arabic and Thai.
Another more controversial top-level domain approved
The ICANN board also voted to allow the application by the adult entertainement sponsor 'ICM Registry LLC' for the controversial .XXX TLD to move forward. Originally submitted and refused a few years ago, ICM's proposal is to keep online adult entertainment to its own specific domain.
Once the negotiations are completed, ICANN will review the final contract to ensure that the registry is in alignment with the recommendations submitted by various governments. According to ICM, it is reasonable to expect the remaining issues to be resolved by the December meeting.
The next ICANN meeting will take place in Cartagena, Colombia, 5-10 December 2010.