Major language barrier on Internet about to fall|
HONG KONG, Nov 9 (Reuters) - A major language barrier on the Internet crumbles on Friday when registration begins for domain names in three Asian languages, to go with the extensions .com, .net and .org. Until now, these domain names were recognised only in Roman letters and Arabic numerals, but the new breakthrough will allow users to register names in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Calling it "the next dot-com wave", a leading domain name registrar, registrars.com, is urging people to sign up fast for the Asian script names so as to beat the crowd and avoid the problem many have had with cyber identities in English. Securing a good Internet name has proven tricky at times. Well-known names including pop diva Madonna, fashion house Chanel and Internet search engine Yahoo! have all had to seek the aid of international arbitrators to recover their web identities from "cybersquatters". International standards, which apply to the multi-lingual system, permit certain types of domain name trading. Only words in the dictionary can be bought and sold at a price. Neither brand names nor their variations can be traded. Some 48,000 new domain names are being registered around the world every day. Asia started late in domain registration but is catching up fast, with domain registrations growing 78 percent between 1999 and 2000. Registrars.com said the latest development is particularly crucial for businesses taking a crack at the Asian market. "On the Internet, your domain name is your brand name," said Lucy Chan, the company's director of business development. The company now charges customers US$50 for every successful registration. In the strictest sense, the system does not altogether localise domain names because the users will still need to to type ".com" in Roman letters. Nonetheless, the industry by and large looks forward to the latest development. China-channel.com is one company trying to tap what it sees as a potential goldmine. "An estimated 25 percent of Internet users nowadays surf only in Chinese," it said. The company boasts it has the technology to snap up names for customers at lightning speed when real-time registration opens, giving it an edge over competitors. It said it received some 50,000 applications within the first three days of the pre-registration in late October. This week's move will open up ample opportunities for the domain industry but whether that will complicate the identity crisis many are having to deal with on the Internet remains to be seen. "
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