The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced a historic breakthrough, making the "world wide web" finally become a reality as country-related internationalized domain names (IDN) now extend beyond Latin country code top-level domains or ccTLDs.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE granted first access
ccTLD is the last portion to the right of the dot (and conversely for languages spelled the other way round) such as dot "co.uk" for the UK, dot "fr" for France or dot "eg" for Egypt, to cite a country with non-Latin characters.
Today, instead of ".eg" for Egypt, domain names from the land of the Pharaohs will end with "مصر " (Egypt).
The two other countries to get their own ccTLDs are Saudi Arabia: "السعودية " (AlSaudiah) and the United Arab Emirates: "امارات " (Emarat).
Next on the list will be the Russian Federation, ICANN's Kim Davies wrote in a blog post.
What this means is that users in those countries will have a choice of entering the Arabic or Latin characters when entering the last part of a domain name.
More countries/languages to come
ICANN explained that "Arabic is among the most highly used languages on the Internet today. The Middle-East has an average Internet penetration of just over 20%, and shows a big potential for growth."
Among other languages under consideration are Chinese, Sinhalese, Tamil, and Thai, Davies said.
As reported by the BBC, countries like China and Thailand "had already introduced workarounds that allow computer users to enter web addresses in their own language" but such methods were neither internationally approved or technically supported by all computers.
So far, ICANN has received a total of 21 requests for IDN ccTLD(s), representing 11 languages.
Gradual roll out
ICANN warned that IDNs would not work on all computers immediately.
"You may see a mangled string of letters and numbers, and perhaps some percent signs or a couple of "xn--"s mixed into the address bar," said Mr Davies. "Or it may not work at all."
We could not find any new arabic script domains indexed yet on Google.*
We have been speculating internally about whether this change create new opportunities or new difficulties for search marketers and the jury is out. What do you think?
*UPDATE: (15:47 EST) SEW Reader, IDNforums.com found some indexed arabic text domains
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!