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RealTime IT News

Spain Eyes "Multilingual" Domains

[Madrid, SPAIN] After years of mangling their language to adapt to the Internet age, Spanish netizens look forward to domain names with accents and language-specific characters like the letter "Q".

While a Spanish firm has been granted the right to register such characters, and the Spanish government has moved to lobby for the domains, experts say multilingual domains may have a rocky road ahead of them.

Early this month, with the certification of Verisign Global Registry Services, the Spanish firm Interdomain became the first with the right to register special language-specific characters like "q" (in Spanish) and "g" (in Portuguese). The company also won the right to use accents--crucial to correct spelling and meaning, but ignored until now by the English-dominated Internet.

Last week, the Spanish senate followed up with a unanimous motion to form a special interest group to lobby for domain name usage of Spanish state languages like Castilian, Catalan, Galego, Valencian, and Euskera. In addition to Spanish politicians from the executive and legislative branches, the pressure group will reportedly include a wide array of members--ranging from Latin American IT firms to members of the various official language-preservation academies and the Instituto Cervantes (a cultural organization that promotes Spanish worldwide).

The group aims to lobby institutions with decision-making power on the Net and to join forces with public and private entities in other countries whose languages are not completely compatible with Internet technology. Such changes would pave the way for other European languages currently limited online by the 26 characters of English.

There are currently more than 800,000 multilingual domain names pre-registered worldwide.

According to Spanish lawmakers, the way to allow for unrepresented characters would be to swap the current 7-bit coding system (whose 128 characters are reserved for English-language letters, symbols and numbers) for the UNICODE standard. While this alternative system would allow for 65,000 characters, the high cost of changing over can only be overcome by persisent and effective lobbying, they said.

Nonetheless, observers who note that the Internet Engineering Task Force has yet to standardize the way data is transferred online say that multilingual domains could run into many technical problems. Such barriers could require costly adjustments to browsers, proxies and routers.

"There's a fifty percent chance that the new characters can't be implemented," Interdomain CEO Roberto Laorden told Europa Press.

Interdomain is owned by the Spanish telecom giant Telefonica--which had to suppress the accent over the "o" in its own name in order to go online.