The Internet Address Goes Global – with Local Languages

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bill Radke: The Internet address goes global. The company that acts as the world’s clearinghouse for Internet domains is a California-based non-profit called ICANN. Reporter Kurt Achin says ICANN is about to help the Web speak the local language around the world.

Kurt Achin: Up until now, Internet users have had to type out web page URLs using the Roman alphabet.

But on Friday, ICANN’s board — meeting here in Seoul — is expected to change all that, when it votes to introduce what’s called “Internationalized Domain Names.” Within a year or two, Web users will be able to type out their favorite Web addresses using Chinese characters, Korean hangeul, Arabic script, and so on.

Rebecca MACKINNON: The Internet is no longer dominated by English speakers anymore.

Rebecca Mackinnon is a Hong Kong University professor specializing in Internet governance. She says about one and a half billion people now use the Internet. Most are university graduates who are comfortable with the Roman alphabet. But the world’s next online generation looks a little different.

MACKINNON: Really the next billion Internet users are increasingly going to be peasant farmers in far western China, who maybe didn’t graduate from grade school.

Source: Marketplace (NPR) (link opens in a new window)