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.

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