Web addresses in Japanese, Arabic and Hebrew are on the way after the non-profit corporation that oversees internet domain names approved non-Latin characters on Friday.
The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — or ICANN — approved a motion to allow internet domain names that use characters other than the letters A to Z, the 10 numerals and the hyphen.
The vote took place at the end of a weeklong meeting of ICANN in Seoul, South Korea.
The domain name is the part of every web and email address that ends in ".com," ".ca" or some other suffix.
The decision means that governments will be able to submit requests for domain names likely starting Nov. 16.
Internet users could start seeing the domain names using the new scripts working on the web early next year.
Internet addresses in Arabic and Chinese characters are particularly in demand, ICANN officials said.
'One big step'
"This represents one small step for ICANN, but one big step for half of mankind who use non-Latin scripts, such as those in Korea, China and the Arabic speaking world as well as across Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world," Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's CEO, said ahead of the vote.
Languages that use accented Latin characters, such as French, Turkish and Vietnamese, won't be included in this round of internet internationalization.
Some security experts are worried that including accented Latin characters could lead to phishing scams, schemes to fool people into entering confidential information on fraudulent websites. The idea is that internet users might not at first see the difference between, for example, "google.com" and "goógle.com."
The suffixes of these addresses — ".com" and ".org", also called top-level domain names — will continue to use the unaccented Latin alphabet for at least a few more years, though.
China has already set up its own ".com" in Chinese within its borders, using techniques that aren't compatible with internet systems around the world.
The decision comes as the internet celebrates its 40th anniversary. The internet traces its roots to experimental computer networks at U.S. government and university labs in 1969.