In the beginning (January 1, 1970), the future was bright. Vint Cerf created IPv4 to provide an inexhaustible number of device addresses. The ARPANET allowed only ASCII (the characters handed down by the Romans plus Guttenberg’s hyphen). After all, who would use this network—if it even worked—besides some universities and the Department of Defense? Everybody everywhere and Vint Cerf’s wine cellar, it turns out.
As the Internet becomes truly global and welcomes all of humanity, we are forced to embrace the way real people speak, read, and think. While English remains the lingua franca of the Internet, remember that only a few decades ago, Erich Heller wrote, “The modern mind speaks German.” While the majority of Internet content is in English, almost 60% of its users are not native English speakers. This summer, the ICANN approved Chinese-character domain names, making the Internet more accessible to 1 billion people.
Why is this such a big deal? While the DNS supports non-ASCII characters, the underlying network protocols do not. When a browser sees a host name, it sends a request to the DNS resolver service. The resolver service then sends a request to a domain name server to return an IP address corresponding to that host name. When the IP address is returned, a connection is made to the appropriate Web server.
In the case of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) (domains that contain non-English characters), when a browser sees either a non-ASCII character host/domain name in its location bar, or an URL with a non-ASCII domain part embedded in a web page, the application uses Punycode to uniquely and reversibly convert the non-ASCII characters into the standard ASCII subset characters that the network protocols support. This is all transparent to the person browsing the web—all they see is the words in their language.
Neustar’s .biz domain supports Chinese, Danish, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish IDNs in the .biz top-level domain (TLD) and Chinese IDNs in the .cn TLD. We are Neustar…and we connect everyone.