ICANN approves Internet addresses in Arabic, Cyrillic script

The global agency overseeing Internet domain names on Thursday said Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates can begin creating online addresses in their native languages.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) effectively broke the Latin alphabet's three-decade hold on Internet domain names.

"This marks a pivotal moment in the history of Internet domain names," said ICANN chief executive and president Rod Beckstrom.

"These international names will now allow people to type entire domain names in their own language."

The four approved countries may request local language Internet addresses to be included in a domain names root system that will be accessible to users worldwide by the middle of this year, according to ICANN.

Sixteen applications in eight languages had been received as of Thursday.

In October, ICANN approved a new multilingual address system which it said would open up the Internet to millions more people worldwide.

In the future it will be possible to write an entire website address in any of the world's language scripts.

ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush has described the new measure as the biggest technical change to the Internet for 40 years.

ICANN says more than half the world's 1.6 billion Internet users use languages with scripts that are not Latin-based.

ICANN, a non-profit body formed in 1998 by the US government, was last year given more autonomy after Washington relaxed its control over how the Internet is run.

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