Yesterday, one of the biggest events in the history of the Internet took place; non-Latin top-level domains went live in the DNS root zone. In plain English, you can now type the whole of a domain name in Arabic script. Not just the left of the dot (as in dot org) but the right of it, too. The three new top-level domains are السعودية. (“Al-Saudiah”), امارات. ( “Emarat”) and مصر. (“Misr”). They are country code names in Arabic for Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

How did this happen? Years of collaboration and cooperation between countless technical, policy and linguistic experts around the world, endless patience and a fair amount of justified and motivating impatience for people to be able to use their own scripts and thus languages to access the Internet.

As Tina Dam, who leads ICANN work on internationalising domain names puts it, credit goes to the “registries and governments that have worked actively locally; the IDNA protocol authors; the policy makers; application developers” such as browsers who had to figure out how to make the url field read from right to left, and many, many more.

As my old IANA colleague, Kim Davies, says; the hard work and collaboration required to get this far is just the beginning. The people behind these new domains now need to work with their own communities to populate them. Browsers like Firefox don’t seem to have caught on yet, though they’ve had plenty of warning. And many more script and language groups are lining up behind to get their own characters into the root. Word is the Russians want Cyrillic in next (Medvedev got his game face on when he heard the Bulgarians might get there first.). [click to continue…]