International naming system takes shape

The Internet's naming system will soon include a number of new international domain names that will use scripts such as Chinese, Korean, Hindi and Arabic rather than the current naming system that only allows Latin characters.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Friday announced its board had approved the new naming system, which had been in the works for nearly a decade. Currently, the system allows 280 country domain names, such as .uk for Britain and .ru for Russia. The new system, which will be rolled out gradually, will make it possible to type entire Web addresses in non-Latin characters, and will allow people to use keyboards with characters in their native language.

ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom said the new system is the "biggest change in the Internet's underlying structure" in its 40-year history.

Just yesterday, ICANN said it had reached a formal agreement with Singapore to establish a new domain name for the country, which will be .sg. The new naming system will first only apply to country domain names, but will eventually apply to all Web addresses. The ICANN board said it will "fast track" the process, beginning Nov. 16.

The new international domain names is just the beginning of a broader name expansion ICANN has in the works. ICANN next year plans to introduce new domain names that would allow companies and individuals to create their own suffixes -- such as .food, .sports and .eco. The new domains would likely cost around $100,000 each. Big companies from Marriott to Nike to Amazon are wary of the plans, fearing they will have to defensively buy hundreds of Web addresses to avoid so-called cyber-squatters. This process begins just a month after ICANN entered a new arrangement with the Commerce Department that gives foreign governments more control over how the Internet's underlying technology is run. (Read that story here.)

Below is a video ICANN put together about the new international domain names.