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ICANNICANN, the internet regulator, has approved plans to allow internet addresses to be written in a non-Latin alphabet, claiming it’s the biggest change to the internet in its 40 year history. Up until this point, TLDs (top level domains) have had to be written in the western Latin alphabet, resulting in the .com .org .net and .co.uk web addresses we are all familiar with. Whilst Korean websites, for example, have been able to use their own alphabet within the start of a domain, the end of the address has had to end in the .kr suffice (i.e. Latin script) for the addresses to resolve to websites IP address (the destinations true ‘internet address’). This change could potentially mean new TLDs could appear in as diverse characters as Hindi, Korean, Arabic, Japanese, Greek, Mandarin and Russian Cyrillic.

"This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and a historic move toward the internationalisation of the Internet. The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs (Internationalised Domain Names) in the domain name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online – people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives."

[Source: Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's President and CEO, 30/10/09]

Applications are being taken from November 16th this year and the first IDNs are expected to be in operation around mid-2010, with the mostly likely up takers being Chinese, Arabic and Russian users. The release of IDNs follows the recent moves from ICANN to regress from its strong ties to the US government and become a true international organisation and regulator.