One Step Closer To Native Web Addresses

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, aka ICANN, is one step closer to allowing the first Internet addresses written completely in non-Latin characters. Previously, in October, ICANN had voted to allow non-Latin web addresses. On January 21st, they approved the first four non-Latin top-level domains (extensions, like .com or .org, that appear at the end of a web address).

Domains were approved for the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. That means that, for the first time ever, people in these countries will be able to access web sites using their native script alone, without having to try to figure out Latin characters that they don’t use in their daily lives.

According to an ICANN press release (pdf), domain names should be accessible worldwide by the middle of this year. In the news release, CANN CEO and President Rod Beckstrom commented that:

“These international names will now allow people to type entire domain names in their own language. This marks a pivotal moment in the history of Internet domain names.”

This is great news for Internet users in these four countries, but what about for Internet security? The Times Online recently ran an article that raised concerns about non-Latin domain names being used to facilitate phishing and other scams, since English-language browsers can  render non-Latin alphabets in Unicode script in a way that can make some letters in, for example, Cyrillic, appear identical to Latin letters even though they represent different sounds.  The example given in the Times article is “Paypal”- in browsers using Unicode script, the word “raural” written in Cyrillic script will look like “Paypal” written in Latin.

However, Mashable notes that since there is no way to mix Latin and other scripts in a single web address, this is probably not as big as a concern as it has been made out to be. Anyway, you already type your bank’s web address directly into your browser as opposed to clicking a link in your email, right? If you don’t, now might be a good time to start doing what you should have been doing all along to protect yourself.