Surfing in Tongues

WORLD WIDE WEB addresses were recently liberated from the tyranny of roman characters. This blow to the English language's hegemony came on Nov. 10, 2000, when Mountain View, Calif.-based domain name registrar VeriSign started registering Web addresses in Chinese, Korean and Japanese characters.

The move benefits two constituencies: first and most obviously, Pacific Rim Web surfers, who will no longer have to type URLs in a foreign alphabet.

The other beneficiaries are large corporations that wish to protect their brand names. Now Coca-Cola can register the Korean equivalent of its name. As of mid-December, VeriSign had registered over 700,000 domain names, including 275,000 in Chinese, nearly 250,000 in Korean and 200,000 in Japanese. Names will gradually be assigned IP addresses so as not to interfere with the more than 24 million already active domains. VeriSign also offers translation services to ensure that, say, Coca-Cola doesn't discover that its Korean Web address reads something like bitethewaxtadpole.com.

This story, "Surfing in Tongues " was originally published by CIO.

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