For all of the talk about the internet erasing national borders and spanning the world, its domain names are, mostly, still Romanized. The presence of language-specific scripts expanded a little more on Wednesday when ICANN, the organization that sets domain name standards like “.com” and “.org,” decided to throw four new suffixes into the mix: شبكة, онлайн, сайт, 游戏. That’s Arabic for “web,” Cyrillic for “online” and “site,” and Chinese for “game.”
Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Generic Domains Division, called it “the biggest change to the Internet since its inception,” a dramatic claim to stake on four little suffixes. On the other hand, it marks the beginning of a gradual expansion of the naming system, from 22 English-denominated names to a projected 1,400 multilingual names. The worldwide web is about to sound a little more worldly.