Cape Town, South Africa (PressExposure) December 02, 2009 -- Up until a little while ago, around mid-November, if you wanted to register a domain name you were bound by the Latin alphabet. All of that changed when the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided to allow a multilingual address system for domain registration, which means that Asian and Arabic countries can now register domains with suffixes in their own alphabet.
Egypt and Bulgaria were among the first countries to register alphabet specific domains. Egypt claims to have landed the first all Arabic domain name registration, while Bulgaria is after a Cyrillic top-level domain. According to a blog on the Wall Street Journal, as of the 16th November this year, six countries had applied to register domains in three languages.
While the decision has been lauded in some quarters for its ability to make internet use easier for a vast majority of the world's population who don't use the Latin alphabet, others are more cautious. Peter Wood, chief of operations at First Base Technologies, an internet security testing firm, believes that the new domain registration rules are vulnerable to exploitation by cyber-squatters, who pounce on available domain names so that they can sell them at exorbitant prices to brand owners.
Wood also believes that scammers will be able to register domains that look real but that aren't, specifically for the purposes of distributing malicious software or phishing. This is a particular danger with Cyrillic characters that appear similar to letters in the Latin alphabet, but which have a completely different meaning. Woods advises companies and organisations that want to take advantage of the new domain registration opportunities to register all possible variations on their names (branded and non-branded) to avoid messy legal battles and to avoid the damage that a malicious site owner with a similar domain can cause to precious brand reputations.
Countries on the cutting edge of internet technology tend to have the legal frameworks in place to protect brand owners from cyber-squatters, or at least provide redress in the instance of malicious domain registration. However, many countries that are still catching up to the ubiquitous nature of the web are unable to protect brand owners from lengthy and expensive court battles, nor are they able to spot and prevent malicious registration before it occurs.
Potential dangers notwithstanding, the international community at large is pleased that after nearly seven years of dithering, ICANN has finally approved multilingual domain registration, as it is one more step towards making the internet accessible to everyone.