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ICANN Approves Chinese Domain Names

Domain names written entirely in Chinese script are expected to make sites more accessible to Chinese language users.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has approved the use of domain names written entirely in Chinese.

The ICANN board meeting in Brussels on Friday approved the request to let operators use Chinese script in registering Web sites in the Chinese country-code top-level domains. Before, operators had to use ".cn" at the end of domain names.

The board's action stemmed from a request by three Chinese organizations, the China Internet Network Information Center, the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation and the Taiwan Network Information Center. The change means Chinese Web site operators will be able to offer Internet users a domain written in their own script, making it easier to find sites.

"This approval is a significant change for Chinese language users worldwide," Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive of ICANN, said in a statement. "One fifth of the world speaks Chinese and that means we just increased the potential online accessibility for roughly a billion people."

China is not the first country to win approval for domain names in its native language. Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can use their own scripts in domain names. Similar requests by other countries are pending.

ICANN is a private organization responsible for overseeing the operational stability of the Internet. The group approved the use of non-Roman characters in Web addresses in November 2009.

The change only applies to country-code top-level domains controlled by national governments. Such Web addresses have endings such as .cn, .uk or .us. Such ccTLDs cover about 40% of Web sites. The rest have endings such as .com, .net and .org, which are obtained commercially. Internationalization of the latter TLDs is expected to occur in the coming years.

In other ICANN action, the board on Friday voted to allow the controversial .XXX top-level domain for the adult entertainment industry. The approval came at the request of the company ICM Registry.

However, Web sites using .XXX won't appear on the Web anytime soon. ICANN still has to review the contract proposal for operating the domain.

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Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer