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VeriSign Adds 70 Languages for Domain Names

Internet: Move opens more of the global computer network to people who don't speak English.

February 27, 2001|From Reuters

Now, speakers of Euskara and Tibetan can register their Internet domain names in their native tongues.

In a move that further opens up the Internet to nonnative English speakers, VeriSign Inc. on Monday began accepting registrations for Internet domain names in more than 70 additional, mostly European languages.

Internet users will be able to choose Web site and e-mail addresses that use special letters, accents and marks particular to Western European languages such as French, German and Spanish, to supplement the standard Roman letters and numbers currently used.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet infrastructure and security provider VeriSign is also adding Web domain names using Greek and Cyrillic alphabets, those used by Russian speakers, which had been absent from its worldwide database of domain names.

Some of the more esoteric languages that VeriSign now supports include Euskara, spoken by the Basque people in Spain; Pinyin, which is Mandarin Chinese written using Roman letters and tonal marks instead of Chinese characters; and Esperanto, the 'universal' language created in the 19th century by a Polish linguist.

The opening of the latest batch of multilingual domain names by VeriSign follows on the company's launch of Chinese, Japanese and Korean language domain names four months ago.

More than 800,000 Web domains in these Asian languages have been registered by individuals and businesses, as well as speculators hoping to sell choice Web addresses at high prices. These domains are still being tested, meaning that users cannot yet access Web sites in Asian languages.

The new multilingual domains could help reverse the perception--and reality--that the Internet is an English-centric medium.

As many as eight in 10 Web sites primarily feature English-language content, despite the fact that native English speakers make up only about 7% of the global population.

For VeriSign, which acquired this database, or registry, of domain names when it bought Network Solutions Inc. last year for $21 billion, the new domains offer a fresh market as registrations of English domain names slow down.

There are more than 28 million top-level domain names, which mostly end in .com, .net, and .org. Registrations have slowed, though, because few desirable, easy-to-type domain names remain unregistered.

But launching multilingual domain names has not been a smooth process for VeriSign.

When the company announced last fall that it was testing the new multilingual domain name technology, it elicited protests from some members of Icann, the global governing body overseeing domain name policies, who said they had not been properly consulted.

Users can now only register and pay for the domain names. A date for when they would go live has not been set.

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