ECDL Foundation Blog
Increasing Diversity on the World Wide Web
Last month saw an occasion of historic importance in the development of the Internet. On 20 June, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the not-for-profit organisation which controls the assignment of internet domain names, voted to launch between 400 and 800 new generic top-level domains at their conference in Singapore. Top-level domains (TLDs) are the part that appears at the end of a domain name - .com, .net, .org – and represent the highest level in the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy.
At present, there are only twenty-two generic TLDs in existence. The creation of a large number of new TLDs is expected to fundamentally alter the structure of the World Wide Web. One of the likely effects of the release of new TLDs is to increase levels of diversity online. Website addresses will no longer be limited to Roman alphabet characters; website names will now be able to contain characters from languages such as Chinese, Cyrillic, or Arabic. As the new TLDs have yet to assigned, there is potential for the Web’s new structure to be tool for global development: for example, there is currently a campaign underway to register .africa as a new TLD.
The World Wide Web, an innovation that is barely 20 years old, has changed beyond recognition from what it was even five years ago. The Internet, in its present incarnation, is rapidly running out of web addresses.1 The first quarter of 2011 saw 210 million new website registrations, the majority of which were in the .com registry. The creation of the new TLDs will hopefully ensure that purchasing domain names, creating websites and sharing ideas on the Web will remain inexpensive and open to all web users.
The expansion of the new top-level domains is just another part of the natural progression of the Internet to Web 2.0. ECDL Foundation welcomes any technological advance that can open new avenues of communication and increase online diversity, but also urges caution. Rapidly changing internet technologies have the potential to pose challenges for ICT policymakers, stakeholders, and web users. ECDL Foundation will continue, through our range of ICT certification programmes2, to ensure that individuals are equipped with the necessary skills to engage effectively and securely with the ever-evolving online world.
1. Migration from IPv4 to IPv6 - http://www.worldipv6day.org/
2. To view the full range of ECDL Foundation’s certification programmes, go to www.ecdl.org/programmes
Click here for a BBC News story on the launching of the first websites in Arabic script
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