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For 1 billion speakers, domain names officially go Chinese


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ICANN oversees the worldwide domain name system that turns "arstechnica.com" into an IP address, and at a major ICANN meeting today in Europe, the organization made two important decisions. If you read the Interwebs, you've no doubt heard that a new .XXX top-level domain was approved for all things pornographic. Porn! The Internet is for porn! Raaaaaaagh!

But, in ICANN's view, that was the less important news—because the Internet, before it can be used for porn or anything else, has to work for people. And billions of Chinese-speaking people have so far had no officially sanctioned, internationally standard way to input complete Web addresses in their native tongue. (Various local solutions have been used for some time, but ICANN's process is designed to avoid confusion and to avoid breaking DNS for others or fragmenting the system.)

ICANN has now approved three sets of Chinese country-specific domain names under its fast-track approval process, all accessible using Chinese script. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China each get a name of their own, though only Taiwan and mainland China will have two variants each (one in traditional Chinese, one in simplified Chinese).

China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) will administer the 中国 and 中國 variants, while Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited handles 香港 and the Taiwan Network Information Center gets 台灣 and 台湾. Simplified and traditional Chinese domain names will both resolve to the same website.


ICANN's view of its work

"This approval is a significant change for Chinese language users worldwide," said Rod Beckstrom, CEO of ICANN. "One fifth of the world speaks Chinese and that means we just increased the potential online accessibility for roughly a billion people."

Oh yeah—ICANN also approved the long-mooted, always-controversial .XXX after rejecting the idea back in 2007.

Further reading

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