Internet regulator emphasizes 'world' in World Wide Web
Oct 26, 2009, 14:23 GMT
Seoul - A simpler World Wide Web for non-English speakers is on the horizon, according to the world's 'internet regulator,' which is hosting its 36th International Public Meeting this week in South Korea's capital Seoul.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, brings together some 1,000 Web gurus, including its board members and stakeholders, to review policies. That includes one that could pave the way for web addresses written completely in, say, Korean characters - or Chinese or Arabic, for that matter.
'This would be the biggest change technically to the internet since it was invented 40 years ago,' ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush said at a opening press conference on Monday.
'We'd take multiple different scripts and safely and consistently convert them into Web addresses.'
Such Web addresses, which use characters outside the usual range of A to Z, 0 to 9 and hyphens, are referred to as Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).
The kinds of IDNs currently available require use of at least some Roman text, such as '.com' or '.org.'
Using the conference, which runs until Friday, ICANN's board of directors plans to review measures that could enable Web users to type internet domain names entirely in non-Roman script by the end of the year.
'This change is very much necessary for not only more than half the internet users today but more than half of all future users,' said ICANN president and chief executive officer Rod Beckstrom.
Of the approximately 1.6 billion Web users today, 60 per cent are non-English speakers - nearly 35 million of them in Korea alone - according to Internet World Stats.
'Since we started with English domain names in Korea, some people feel like the internet is kind of an Anglo-Saxon community,' said Kwon Hyun Joon, secretary general of the Korea Internet & Security Agency's web address dispute resolution committee.
'The internet should be provided to all people around the globe equally, regardless of their languages.'
As for how the Western world would access non-Roman web addresses, Beckstrom suggested search engines would play a large role in surfing such sites. Thrush added, 'People will be developing new technologies to deal with this new situation.'
Other topics up for discussion include improved internet security, more global accountability for ICANN - which, until September 30, reported its progress only to the US government - and a broader range of suffixes available for use in web addresses, known as generic top-level domains.
'Roughly 15 billion times a day, human beings type a domain name into a web browser,' Beckstrom said.
'Six keystrokes - .co.kr - if those are no longer necessary that adds up to a lot of (saved) human keystrokes.'
Instead, the endings of web addresses could take a variety of different forms, like .berlin, to use Thrush's example. Such domains would not only be more convenient for users, but also enhance consumer confidence, he argued.
ICANN is a nonprofit, public-benefit corporation that coordinates Web addresses and names around the world. Formed in 1998 and headquartered in Marina Del Ray, California, it holds international conferences three times per year in different regions of the globe.