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Supporters say IDNs encourage multilingualism in cyberspace, aid emerging economies and correlate with the actual scripts of Web content. However, universal acceptance may be slow to materialize. Many browsers, email servers and mobile devices are not ready to handle the character complexities.
During the 2010 launch of new URL suffixes for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the CEO of ICANN at the time, Rod Beckstrom, described the historic implementation as “a seismic shift that will forever change the online landscape” and “the beginning of a transition that will make the Internet more accessible and user friendly to millions around the globe, regardless of where they live or what language they speak.”
From .com to dot anything
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the Commerce Department, regulates the workings of the public Internet and ensures that typing in “google” and then “.com” always takes users to the same virtual place.
There are 1,070 top-level domains (TLDs), like .biz and .uk. The seven original generic TLDs were .com, .org, .net, .int, .edu, .gov and .mil. Just last year, the number ballooned from just 22 to hundreds more suffixes, such as .google, .black and .lol. The explosion in new names was controversial, but ICANN defended the move, saying it increased variety, competition and minority voices on the Internet.
Became main top-level domain (TLD), though originally intended for for-profits
Public Interest Registry
Open for use by any entity, though initially limited to non-profit organizations
Broadened beyond just being utilized by umbrella sites functioning as portals
Mostly in use by programs created by treaty between two or more countries
Originally for primary and secondary schools, but now only for higher learning
General Services Admin.
For federal agencies, in addition to state, county and local municipal entities
Dept. of Defense
Pentagon and its subsidiary or affiliated organizations use this domain name
The original list of TLDs — exclusively in Roman letters — included extensions for every country, from .af (Afghanistan) to .zw (Zimbabwe). Some have been retired, like .cs (Czechoslovakia) and .zr (Zaire). For East Germany, .dd was created but never used, and .eh has been reserved but never established for Western Sahara.
But about 45 new country code IDNs were approved by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The most common are .рф (Russia), .台灣 (Taiwan) and .中国 (China), with a combined total of over 1.5 million addresses ending in those characters.
For its part, Google says its search engines are agnostic about the trendy new TLDs like .guru, geographic suffixes like .london and country codes written in alphabets indecipherable to the average English speaker. Its bots apparently do not give more traditional TLDs any sort of stylistic, linguistic or commercial preference.
With generic top-level domains (gTLDs), the recent proliferation of several hundred names opened up the online space to domains such as .adult, designated solely for sexually explicit content. In addition, .sex addresses are likely more pornographic in nature than those ending in .love. There are addresses ending in .bar, .beer, .poker and .pub for any interested entities, whereas .christmas and .church denote more sacred content.
On the professional side, .esq is set aside for legal professionals, .fly for travel agencies and .green for environmentally oriented organizations being billed as Earth’s domain. For a wide array of interest categories, .hiphop, .horse and .house can be used for their respective purposes.
Some of the more nuanced new gTLDs include .organic, .vote and .wiki. Corporate brands have been purchasing addresses with .barclays, .bmw, .ibm and . youtube. Many associations appear poised to switch their main Web portals to addresses like .mormon and .nra, which are among those already created at the IANA.
TLDs associated with places aren't limited to urban units or even continents, like .asia for Asia or .lat for Latin America. Many minority ethnic groups hope to follow the example set by people in Catalonia in Spain (.cat), Kurdistan in northern Iraq (.krd) and Tatarstan in Russia (.tat).
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade said, “I know that minorities will find places on the Net to express themselves through domain name system spaces. … The Internet operates in a transnational space. It is challenging our laws, our jurisdictions. It is challenging the world to create more international frameworks for legal and cultural matters.”