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ICANN seeks comments on rules for Indic language domain names

The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is seeking comments for the use of Indian languages in nine Indic scripts – Bengali, Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu. These additions will allow domain names to include Indian languages. This is not entirely possible right now — having our domain name as மீடியாநாமா.காம், which is MediaNama.com in Tamil, wouldn’t work because the root zone (which is the part of the internet that more or less sets the rules for what a domain name should look like) doesn’t support Indian languages just yet.

It is possible to have website names in a non-Latin script. For instance, गूगल.com does exist. But web browsers have to convert the URL from Unicode, which supports Hindi characters, to ASCII, which is a limited Latin character-set that mostly comprises the letters on the average English keyboard. This is done through something called ‘Punycode’, which converts non-Latin script domain names to ASCII. For instance, मीडियानामा.com would be converted to xn--e2boqcd4gbbdi.com.

Samiran Gupta, head of India at ICANN, told MediaNama, “There would be no half measures, this would be the real thing.” Internationalized domain names also include the part after the dot in a domain name. While India already has .भारत (dot Bharat) top-level domains (TLDs) and non-Devanagari counterparts, it’s just the letters that constitute “भारत” that have been “delegated” into the root zone. The rest of the script still needs to be delegated, and that’s what ICANN — in an effort led by the Neo-Brahmi script Generation Panel — is doing. Non-traditional TLDs like .movie or .cafe will become possible in these scripts at the end of this process.

Domain names in other languages

Internationalized domain names are currently available in Japanese, Chinese, Cyrillic, Greek, and some other scripts. The National Internet Exchange of India introduced the .bharat top-level domains in seven languages. In RTI responses to MediaNama, NIXI declined to reveal how popular these TLDs were citing commercial sensitivity. This was in spite of the fact that NIXI has a monopoly on issuing domain names under .bharat. Even Google has not signed on — the गूगल.भारत is owned by the search engine giant, but doesn’t redirect to Google’s website.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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