Technology

Icann approves Chinese character web domains

Chinese children using computers

Chinese people should soon find it easier to browse the web as domain names written in Chinese win approval.

Net address overseer Icann has approved the creation of domains that use only Chinese characters.

The decision builds on earlier work to create internationalised domain names (IDNs) using with non-Latin characters.

The first IDNs were for Arabic scripts and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the first to register domains using them.

Icann said firms in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan would soon be issuing domains for people and organisations within their countries that are written with all Chinese scripts.

"One fifth of the world speaks Chinese and that means we just increased the potential online accessibility for roughly a billion people," said Icann head Rod Beckstrom in a statement.

He said the decision goes some way towards addressing the contradiction that 60% of the net's users are non-native English speakers yet the dominant language online is English.

This is because when the domain name system was set up addresses, such as the familiar .com and .uk, were written only with Latin characters.

Workarounds for this have been developed which mix Latin and native character sets. Mr Beckstrom said many years of work by the Internet Engineering Task Force had made it possible to use domains written completely in one text.

Icann said that IDNs in 20 languages were being prepared with Thai and Tamil expected to follow soon.

News about the decision was released at the 38th international Icann meeting held in Brussels from 20-25 June.

At the same meeting the .xxx domain, which will cater to pornographic websites, also won approval.

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