The likes of China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are on the fast track to net domains that use their very own alphabets. This week, at the Internet Governance Forum in Rio de Janeiro, ICANN announced that it's cranking an effort to provide certain very important nations with "country code top-level domains" that use " …
Internationalized? Surely they mean localized!?
Even been traveling? Notice how keyboards in most countries are different, localized for accented characters and such? Until now, you could always find the ASCII letter you were looking for but this takes it to a whole new level!
Imagine you are Russian and you travel to England and go into EasyInternet to check your email. Uh-oh - you only know how to get to your ISP's webmail using the Russian IDN.
Sure, most website will end up supporting both, but because you didn't think to find out what the ASCII URL was before you left, you are screwed.
Not to mention I might think of doing business with some Russian company and they might have forgotten completely to provide for a domain name I can actually type in.
They call these "Internationalized Domain Names" while in reality they should be called "Localized Domain Names"; domain names that can only be accessed from one locality - the one with the keyboards that can input them.
Do people in those countries know of "bookmarks" ?
Methinks the ones pushing for this change do not actually use browsers; otherwise they would realize the only address people have to type - once - is that of their favorite search engine.
They're just bitching about the last two letters of a URL; for all the other elements it's already possible to use non-roman alphabets. To gauge the level of success it's met with webmasters, just run a search on baidu.cn, the most widely used Chinese search engine, for 中国 (=China) and see how many hits you get without a roman URL (hint: the number is between -0.5 and +0.5).
Unless those governments make it mandatory, I don't see many sites will be appearing under those domains; apart from malicious ones that is: with all likelihood, the actual implementation will be through punycode, so that a "http://evilsite.ru" will become an instantly recognizable "http://xn--vilsit-2ofg.xn--p1ag".
Well, at least it will cause a surge in click on dodgy links... Just what the doctor ordered for the Internet.
Re: Keyboards and bookmarks
Bas: The general problem of typing characters that aren't on your keyboard has had some sort of solution using IMEs for, I dunno, yonks.
Aleph0: I'm not sure that your "中国" test is so conclusive. I was under the impression that China *had* gone ahead and used their own script within their own domain. Is it possible that search engines on *.cn are smart enough to filter their results for IP addresses outside the Great Firewall? (That might have been a technical requirement.)
On the other hand, you have a fair point about "the last two letters of a URL". Unless *.cn and *.中国 (or whatever) resolve to the same namespace, this looks like just another round of DNS land/grab followed by more scope for phishing.
Ken: You mean those IMEs that are not always installed by default? And even if they are you need admin privileges and your Windows CD-ROM to install your obscure language that was left out of the defaults? (which, according to Windows, includes "East Asian languages"!)
Plus that if all your life you have been working with a localized keyboard, you probably don't know what an IME is. On top of that, while the Japanese one has a soft keyboard, in my Russian example you are stuffed; Windows simply assumes that if you select Russian you have an actual Russian keyboard connected; no soft keyboard shows in the language bar.
Seriously, they are a good solution on your own computer or in an office environment, but depending on them being available on some random person's computer across the globe is not realistic.
It's not entirely random. If you register under a Cyrillic domain name, presumably the people you are hosting Cyrillic content or want to receive email using that script. It is quite likely that folks who want to read or send such material have a suitable IME installed.
ICANN has IDNs?