Arabic Language Domains & Internet Growth In The Arab World

A lot of talk has been going on these past couple of days about Arabic language domain names which should become possible within the coming year, with the major changes planned for the web addressing system, allowing the use of international scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Hindi in domain names, as well as the liberalization of the registration process for top-level domains.

The Arab league already has plans to play a big role in the midst of all this by operating its own “.arab” domain, registered in Arabic and Latin characters.

The officials at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) think that this move will help boost internet growth in the region, as more and more Arabic speakers find it more accessible to them.

According to Baher Esmat, the Middle East relations manager of ICANN, “The next 10 million or 20 million Arab internet users will be those who do not speak English,” as “They will want to do everything in Arabic, including the addresses.”

Now even though I’m not really a supporter of the move to liberalize the registration of top-level domains, because of the big hassle and mess I fear it will create, I think the other change adding the possibility to use international scripts in domain names is a great step forward for the web addressing system.

I’m sure a lot of Arab websites will be registering web addresses in Arabic once it becomes possible next year, and it will be interesting to analyze the statistics and see how many people prefer using them.

Still, I’m not sure it’ll really have that big of an effect on internet growth in the region. I mean, is using a web address typed in Latin characters really a big barrier holding back people from getting online and surfing the web?
Of course, it’s more practical to just do everything in Arabic for many, but how many people do you think have skipped using the internet altogether just because they don’t want to type urls in Latin?

What do you think? Will Arabic domain names help boost internet growth in the region? Why?


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Tarek is the founder and chief researcher at Youngberry, a youth research and marketing firm dedicated to the region. Tarek founded interactiveME.com and previously worked as Manager at Flip Media (Interactive Agency), Bayt.com (Job Site) and Consulting House Qatar (Consulting firm). He is researcher and writer on internet & disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, and youth culture.