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More Web confusion with multi-language domains

Ross O. Storey | Nov. 16, 2009
Another challenge to Internet standardisation

There appears to be the potential for division and confusion on the World Wide Web with the recent move by the global Internet governing body ICANN to allow new languages for use in Web domain names.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has decided to allow countries, such as China, to rebrand their domain names into their native language, from their well-known names currently displayed in Latin characters.

Now English has become the global language for business and it seems that having domain names suddenly sprouting in a variety of different languages can only add to the confusion and complexity of the Internet.

One quarter of the world

According to Internet Web Stats - there are now more than 1.73 billion Internet users across the planet (at 30 September 2009) or more than 25 per cent of the world population.

Asia accounts for 42.6 per cent of the world Internet population, followed by Europe (24.1 per cent), North America (14.6 per cent) and Latin America/Caribbean (10.3 per cent).

Internet Web Stats says that, based on languages spoken, there are 478 million English-speaking Internet users, 384 million Chinese-speaking ones, 137 million Spanish-speaking users and 96 million Japanese.

If the Web was based on country-specific languages, then these numbers would argue for an Asia language presence. But the fact is that the Web was born in English, has developed in English and is most understood in English. Many countries teach English in their schools and there is a push for this to increase.

No doubt, China seems poised to become an even greater economic superpower in the next decade, but it seems a seismic shift for the world to be expected to learn Mandarin if they want to search for Chinese sites. Chinas total number of Internet users only this year became greater than North Americas and, since 2000, and there has been more than a one-thousand per cent growth in the number of Chinese Web users. However, it would be a backward step for everyone to be expected to be fluent in many world languages to be able to properly use the World Wide Web.

Parallels with the Bible

This shift has parallels with the biblical (Genesis) description of the Tower of Babel, when, according to Genesis, God was displeased that one human language had made the worlds people arrogant in wanting to build a massive tower to make a name for themselves. As Genesis has it: A vengeful God…. confused their languages and scattered the people throughout the earth in response to their tower.

So, it appears that ICAAN wants to do something similar with the worlds greatest communications backbone.


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