Tower of Babel?

A couple weeks ago one of the biggest changes to how the World Wide Web is used was made and not many took notice.

The guys who make such lofty decisions, the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” (ICANN) have decided for us that starting this Monday, November 16th, domain names will be available using non Latin characters. In layman’s terms what this means is that the part of an internet address that is after the dot has up until this point been limited to the letters A-Z.

Now the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world will be available online for domain names. I don’t know if this is a good idea or not. First of all I don’t know about you but I get more than enough spam that is in characters other than A-Z already. A page full of something in the Cyrillic alphabet does nothing for me. I am fairly certain that I am being informed that I have won the Russian lottery or that I could share in a ten million dollar bank account if I will just provide my bank account number to deposit the loot into.

But now, according to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and CEO, this move could bring billions of more people online – people who have never used Roman characters in their daily lives. Great. Billions MORE filling the bandwidth of what I call the “World Wide Wait.”

Here is the real issue. Short of buying a Farsi to English dictionary and Farsi Keyboard stickers how in the world will I communicate with these billion new users? I can’t even surf their websites because I don’t have the Hindi keyboard.

I’ll never know if my Google search returns one of these non Latin sites if it’s germane ( Or even German, heh) to my search.

In the bible book of Genesis there is a reference to a city and a tower built to reach heaven. The tower was miles high and was efficiently built because everyone spoke the same language. This evidently pissed off God who “confound (sic) their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” The construction of the tower which most know as the “Tower of Babel” was halted because the builders were no longer speaking the same language.

The parallel to the change just made to the World Wide Web to me is obvious.

And the president of ICANN, Rod rhymes with God.

I rest my case.

ED NOTE/UPDATE: This was written in 2009 – since that time ICANN has also made steps to approve the XXX Top level domain . Thought you should know.


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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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