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First Internationalized Domains Go Live

First Internationalized Domains Go Live

The idea has been in the planning stages since the end of the last century, but the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—the folks responsible for certifying net registrars and managing top-level domains and DNS services—have rolled out their first public test of internationalized domain names—that is, site names which can contain non-Roman characters. Th

The first phase of the test offers only a single set of sites based on a simple Wiki about the technology: the test sites are available in in Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Tamil, Yiddish. The evaluation sites are temporary, but if the test is successful, ICANN will work towards permitting registration of top-level domains using non-Roman scripts.

The idea behind Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) resolution is to enable Internet users around the world to connect to sites using their native languages, instead of having to understand URLs which begin with Roman (usually English) names (like www.digitaltrends.com). Although modern Web browser can handle Unicode characters in portions of a URL after a site name, being able to present site names themselves in a user’s native language is seen as an important step towards making the Internet more accessible to international users.

Some industry watchers have raised concerns that enabling Unicode characters in site names may also expose users to new forms of phishing attacks, since phishers and other attackers could use Unicode characters which may appear on screen in ways identical to sites in English or other languages. For instance, fraudsters could use, say, using Cyrillic characters, to point to a site that looks like paypal.com in a browser’s address bar, but which is in fact a site under their control. ICANN is aware of the issues is working to establish guidelines and policies for reducing possibility users could be misled by spoofed site names.

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