The recent news that the US government has in principle ceded control of ICANN is related to an 
issue that seems to get less coverage - that of Internationalized Domain Names 
(IDN) and the interest behind that in a more multilingual internet. Language of 
course is one of the factors of the "digital divide" and it has been 
particularly problematic in the case of diverse scripts (and, although it is 
often overlooked in discussing writing systems and ICT, even Latin scripts with 
extra letters and diacritics beyond ASCII & ANSI). The Guardian has an 
interesting article exploring this issue in the context of internet governance 
at,,1830481,00.html (excerpts 

I've tended to see IDN as a subset of the larger issues of content, but in a 
way, resloving the technical issues involved in multilingual domain names 
contributes not only to making the web more welcoming to more people and 
peoples, but also to facilitating the processing of more localized content in 
languages that are not yet well represented on the web. Sort of a wedge issue, 
in other words, for the multilingual internet.

Hopefully the new developments with regard to ICANN will help in this process. 

Don Osborn
PanAfrican Localisation Project

"Despite everything you may have heard, the global resource we all know as the 
internet is not global at all. Since you are reading this article in English 
you probably won't have noticed, but if your first language was Chinese, 
Arabic, Hindi or Tamil, you would know very different. At most websites you 
visit you will be scrabbling to find a link to a translated version in your 
language, seemingly hidden amid tracts of baffling text. Even getting to a 
website in the first place requires that you master the western alphabet - have 
you ever tried to type ".com" in Chinese letters?
. . . 
Icann was first approached in the year it was created - 1998 - with the aim of 
introducing "internationalised domain names" into its system. But it has yet to 
introduce a single one. Many members of the global internet community have 
cried foul at the endless delays from a company based in the least 
linguistically diverse area of the world (the US has speakers of 170 different 
languages, compared to 364 in Europe and 2,390 in Africa)." 

The Guardian, 27 July 2006, "Divided by a Common Language",,1830481,00.html
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