4 Countries OK’d for Non-Latin Web Names

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have become the first countries to get a preliminary green light for domain names written in Cyrillic or Arabic.

Domain names, since their creation more than 20 years ago, have been limited to the 26 characters in the Latin alphabet used in English, as well as 10 numerals and the hyphen.

There have been methods to allow portions of web addresses to use other scripts, but until now they had use no more than 37 characters.

ICANN, which made the decision as overseer of the Internet, granted preliminary approval to the four countries after years of debate and testing of non-Latin names. It said that users may still need Latin characters for email addresses but that eventually will change.

ICANN said some countries have been issuing domain names partially in non-Latin scripts — with only the suffix using Latin characters. But Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have not.

For the three Arabic-speaking countries, there would have been too much confusion because their language is written right to left, while the Latin portion would be left to right.

ICANN’s new policy should affect those countries by midyear.