Today has been pegged as historic by Icann president Rod Beckstrom now that new non-Latin web addresses have launched.
The move comes from net regulator Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which has been working on introducing non-Latin addresses for some time now.
Previously some non-Latin characters were allowed in the main part of a URL, but not as part of the country-code, such as .co.uk, which still required the Latin characters.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had previously used .eg, .sa and .ae respectively. Now, however, they will have their own codes which will read as السعودية ,مصر, and امارات respectively, written from right to left as in traditional Arabic script.
These are just the first of many to come, since more than 20 countries have already applied to have applied to have their own native language domains, including China and Thailand, and more than half of all internet users use non-Latin characters in their languages. Some of these countries have already attempted workarounds to try to use their native languages in URLs, but since these were not official they did not work for many users.
It may take some time for the new system to work fully, however, and Icann warns that users may see random signs and symbols, or nothing at all, while the system is being rolled out. A suggested fix for those who do encounter problems is to download the language packs for the language you are using, since not all computers have them pre-installed.
It may not mean much to English-speakers, but it’s a big deal for those who have been previously forced to use Latin characters not present in their every-day language.