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May 7, 2010

What is '.com' in Arabic?

Posted: 10:51 AM ET

If English is your first language, you probably take it for granted that all website suffixes - the .com's, .org's, .gov's and the like - come nicely packaged in Western characters, like the ones you're reading now.

But what if you spoke only Arabic? Or Chinese? Or Russian?

All of those languages make use of a completely different alphabet. And, until this week, none of those alphabets could be used in place of the ".com" portion of an internet address.

Now they can. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced this week that the first sites with all-Arabic Web addresses are now online.

“This isn’t just a minor change for the Internet, it’s a seismic shift that will forever change the online landscape,” Rod Beckstrom, CEO of ICANN, said in a written statement issued Thursday.

“This is the beginning of a transition that will make the Internet more accessible and user friendly to millions around the globe, regardless of where they live or what language they speak.”

The first of these internationalized suffixes is the Arabic form of ".masr," which means "Egypt."

Egypt's internet suffix now will look like this: .eg or .مصر

The Arabic characters read right to left.

This may not sound like a big deal from a Western perspective, but when you flip this scenario around, it's easier to understand, said Brad White, a spokesman for ICANN. Say you wanted to type in the Web address for, but, instead of .com, you had to type in equivalent letters from the Cyrillic alphabet.

"You may not have Russian characters on your keyboard," he said.

White said the switch is part of a long, technical transition to include non-Western characters. The foreign letters first showed up in the main piece of a Web address - so the "CNN" rather than the ".com." But completing the transition is important, he said.

So far, Chinese and Russian characters haven't been included. But 21 countries have applied to have domain name suffixes in 11 different languages. So you'll likely see more of these popping up online soon.

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Filed under: Internet • Web browsers

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Jim H   May 7th, 2010 1:09 pm ET

With the trouble most English speakers have in reading and writing their own language this gives them the opportunity to be regularly wrong on a truly global scale!

Melissa   May 7th, 2010 1:46 pm ET

Oh crap! Am I being non-PC by saying "It's Friday everyone" Because of course you probably suspect I'm an American. Afterall, it's already Saturday in some parts of the world. I mean good Lord....who do we Americans think we are, right? I want to be totally politically correct here......

My apologies to everyone who is not in the USA. I'm a total ignorant person.


Karim   May 7th, 2010 2:41 pm ET

For the funny person who posted who cares, I am not sure why you read the article to begin with if you do not care!!

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