Pierre Dandjinou, ICANN’s Vice President for Stakeholder Engagement in Africa
The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is expanding to support more scripts in domain names and email addresses by making new top-level domains available. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit public-benefit organisation that coordinates the global system of unique identifiers for the Internet, is taking this step to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background, culture, language, or location, should be able to make full use of the Internet.
While more than 60 percent of the world has access to the Internet, many are left behind due to language barriers and a lack of a universally inclusive infrastructure. While the majority of domain names are in a Latin-based script like English, only one in 20 people worldwide speak English as their native language.
Even though domain names and emails in different scripts are available, they are not always recognised as valid by online applications, devices, and systems. New domain names that are longer run into similar problems of not being universally accepted. Better acceptance of all domain names, including Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), will facilitate the development of a more inclusive and multilingual Internet.
IDNs enable people around the world to use domain names in local languages and scripts. IDNs are formed using characters from different scripts, such as Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, or Devanagari. Increasing the demand for these new domain names and resolving the issues around Universal Acceptance (UA) is an important step in ensuring that the benefits of the Internet reach all users (current and new) in the coming years and decades. UA is a technical necessity that ensures that all valid domain names and email addresses can be used by all Internet-enabled applications, devices, and systems.
“A deliberate effort is underway to make the Internet more inclusive and diverse,” says Pierre Dandjinou, ICANN’s Vice President for Stakeholder Engagement in Africa. “Soon, South African businesses, communities, and others will have the opportunity to apply for new top-level domains tailored to their culture, language, business, and customers, allowing them to reflect their community, values, and geographic or cultural niches.”
Where culture, language, diversity, and inclusion are key to driving empowerment in South Africa, this creates opportunities for individuals, communities, businesses, and governments to better represent their identities online. It also allows South Africa to establish more authentic and inclusive online global engagement.
ICANN is preparing to open another round of applications for new top-level domains. Soon, businesses, communities, and others in South Africa will be able to apply for new top-level domains tailored to their community, culture, language, business, and customers.
- Organisations in South Africa will soon be able to register new top-level domains that are longer than three letters and some that contain special scripts
- These generic top-level domains (gTLDs) will go beyond the traditional .com or .org or .net, giving businesses the ability to create stronger identities, better search engine optimisation, and stronger global identities.
- For businesses, a TLD can be a branding opportunity, and the commercial opportunities are endless, allowing business communities in countries, entire sectors, or commercial niches to develop a unique label for themselves on the Internet.
- All gTLD applicants will be required to meet a detailed set of requirements for approval. Setting up a TLD requires considerable technical and financial resources.
- South Africa is a focus in the next round of applications, which will include other applicant support resources for qualified applicants.
- Expanding the DNS to be locally relevant isn’t just about scripts, but also about ensuring that Internet domain names resonate with a range of cultures, traditions, and societal norms.
- This allows for the potential inclusion of some South African languages where feasible – an important part of creating cultural identity and inclusion in the global Internet.
ICANN’s mission is to help ensure a stable, secure, and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet, you need to type an address – a name or a number – into your computer or other device. That address must be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN helps coordinate and support these unique identifiers across the world. ICANN was formed in 1998 as a nonprofit public benefit corporation with a community of participants from all over the world.