It’s taken far longer than it should but we are finally there – new, non-English extensions exist on the Internet as of a few hours ago.
The person who hit the button – my friend, Kim Davies – tweeted the news. Kim has already written a quick blog post on the launch, highlighting the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and IT, which is at the end of one of three top-level domains that have gone live.
It is hard to describe the importance of this step. It has been years, literally years, of conversation and discussion and engineering to get to this point. And that point is: the Internet’s core infrastructure can now deal with non-ASCII language. Which means that the Arabic-speaking world, the Chinese-speaking world, the Hindi-speaking world, in fact the majority of people on the planet can finally use the Internet natively without this strange American structure that makes you puts, for example, “.com” at the end of every domain.
This finally makes the global Internet a global Internet. In terms of Internet governance it should also allow (fingers crossed) the single, global, interoperable Internet to hold together. The pressure valve has been pressed down. And it will continue to be repeatedly pressed down for the next few months as more “internationalized domain names” (IDNs) are approved and go live.
There are, of course, all sorts of catch-ups needed. Software needs to work properly with these IDNs. People have to get their head around this works. But this is all minor tweeks. The global Net is here. A great day.
Update: Google has just announced a new “virtual keyboard” which should help answer one question that lots of people have been asking re: IDNs, namely: how can I type in different-language domains when I only have a single-language keyboard?
Second update: Firefox is one of the pieces of software that needs to get with the program. The open-sourcers behind Firefox continue to use a “paypal” example to explain their pretty poor efforts with IDNs so far. But now that IDNs are being officially added to the root, it’s time for Mozilla to wake up and smell the coffee or risk losing billions of potential users of their browser. (The Internet extensions that Firefox allows).