Friday, July 19, 2013

Is شبكة. going to be a revolution?

Starting this September new top-level domain will appear in the Internet. It will be the first domain name in a script other than Latin, namely Arabic. شبكة. – dotShabaka (translated into English as „Web”) will be provided by dotShabaka Registry, the Internet technology company. It will be available to everyone wanting an Arabic online presence.

The information was announced several days ago by dotShabaka Registry. The initiative is a part of the new top-level domain program rolled out by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to expand the Internet’s web address system. Managers from dotShabaka suppose that it will become “the centre of all things Arabic on the Internet” and an alternative for predominant English usage in the world wide web.

That supposition is based on the numbers. In 25 countries, with over 400 million people, Arabic is an official language. Apart from that, Arabic is the fastest growing language online – with growth of more than 2500 percent in the 10 years to 2011 (according to dotShabaka).

Registering for شبكة. is thus going to be considered not only as a willingness to have an Arabic domain name, but also as a desire to become a part of the movement to empower the language on the Internet.

To learn more and to register interest go to: dotShabaka

But… is شبكة. really going to be a revolution? Do individuals and businesses really need domains in Arabic? Wouldn’t they rather keep their present site addresses they’ve been using for years? Will it change much, when the change will affect only the address, and not the content – being already in Arabic?

kraków.pl or krakow.pl

Some time ago domains with Polish diacritic signs were introduced. Have it changed anything? Not much. There are of course sites with Polish sings but they re-direct you to the already existing site with address written without diacritic signs. Example: kraków.pl – leading to krakow.pl. Sincerely speaking I’d never search kraków.pl. I guess people are so used to the way the Internet domains have been written for years that they don’t really need any change. But I may be wrong.

Interesting thing, the site, let’s say „kraków.pl” is not in fact registered the way it’s written here. It’s automatically translated into ASCII. Some older browsers may even show you the strange chain of signs – that is the real name registered. Newer browsers shouldn’t have this problem, provided the site exists under such a name, and doesn’t just serve to re-direct you to a site without diacritic signs, as the case of “kraków.pl” shows.

Of course, Polish is not Arabic. In the first there are only small differences resulting from the lack of a  little tail or sign. Arabic is a not only a language of millions of people (let’s put aside the discussion about the diglossia or triglossia as some point out), but also one of the factors (though not the most important one) uniting the Arabs all over the world.

How do you think: is شبكة. going to be a revolution? Will people and businesses start to use domains in the Arabic script?
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