In an effort to open up Internet usage and ease of use in countries like China and India, SGNIC, the Singapore domain name manager, has begun a trial of internationalised domain names in Chinese and Tamil.
SGNIC has started a trial of non-English language character domain
names in Chinese and Tamil. The rationale is that non-English speakers
in the huge emerging Chinese and Indian economies are encountering
difficulties in Internet use because of having to remember and use
unfamiliar characters in their domain names. The six-month trial is
being used to gauge consumer reaction to the system. Singapore Telecom
(SingTel) is also conducting their own, but private, trial with
SGNIC have a good explanation of how the trial will work on their web site at http://www.idn.sg/howdoesIDNwork.html.
Some browsers, like Firefox, already support it whilst other browsers,
like Internet Explorer, will need a plug-in. The system works by
expressing the domain name in Punycode, which is an ASCII
representation of a Unicode string.
The trial is not only open to existing Singapore domain name
registrants. However overseas entities will need a Singapore
representative to take part.
Whilst it is obviously a great idea to open up the Internet more to
non-English speakers, I wonder if this is the best way to do it. Should
this approach work it will mean that companies wanting to address these
markets will need to register yet more domain names, and manage them. I
would have thought a better system would have been to attempt to
develop a multi-lingual form of domain names, so that depending on the
language set in the browser you were using that the appropriate form of
a domain name could be used. Since this would require a vast overhaul
of the domain name registration and resolution systems I guess it is a
good idea first to look at other alternatives. I just worry that we are
propagating the Tower of Babel syndrome.