Sunday, November 01, 2009

The first step to an Arabic internet?

This is big news. The way we access the Internet is made easier by the use of DNS (Domain Name Services). This let's people use an easy name for a website instead of a string of numbers and, up until this point, this name always had to be in English. The changes being proposed will mean that people with non-Latin script will be able to have domain names in their own language. Chinese and Arabic are amongst the proposed languages. It will be fascinating to see what naming conventions will be used, و و و just doesn't have the same ring to it. We do not use abbreviations in the same way in Arabic so things like http:// will need a suitable, and concise, Arabic description. Domains ending with .com, .edu, .biz, and .sy are rooted within a Latin mindset and economic or political context. Not surprisingly I don't expect much innovation from the Arab world, and we will probably find the Chinese to be the quickest, and most creative, utilisers of this change. Still, even if the Chinese do develop a non-Western perspective to the Internet, it will not be the first time that innovations are imported to the Arab world from China. The abberation of the last three hundred and fifty years has not changed from the fact that the Middle East naturally looks to China for technological and economic hegemony than to Europe.

I think this will have an important impact for the Arab world, probably as important as when philosophy texts were translated from Syriac and Greek into Arabic in ninth century Baghdad. The next big hurdle is to actually create programming languages that utilise non-Latin text, opening the door for highly intelligent non-English speakers to use these tools within their own context and create applications that are relevant to their own environment. Now that will be interesting to see.


Yazan said...

It's very big news. But it also has the potential of turning the internet into blocks of isolated content that you (almost) have no means of reaching.

Btw, "http://", and the rest of the protocol signage won't change, only the domain names. On a separate note, Berners Lee, has recently admitted that there was no real need for the // at all, and had he known it will be such a huge inconvenience and such a waste of resources he'd scrapped it.

Anyways, there are already beginner level amateur programming IDEs that use local texts (I once tested a c-inspired one in Arabic). Technically, it isn't all that difficult, but finding people to adopt will be rather impossible to say the least.

Maysaloon said...

The internet is already blocks of isolated content. Those who will connect with one another will continue to do so in my opinion. I am far more interested in its implications for people within huge areas such as the Arab world or China and how this would make them connect and establish their own technological identity.

I realised after posting that http won't change, but this is something specific to the operating system and browser itself surely? I cannot think of one good reason why a Chinese operating system with a Chinese language web browser would continue to append "http://" to every Chinese address entered, rather than a more useful Chinese description.

I think for people to adopt the languages you find there has to be a)A commercial motivation b)Enough people who need it.

I think this can only be done by having this non-Latin web made accessible by people who have neither the time nor the inclination to learn another language. Perhaps "critical-mass" would be a good description. This critical-mass is only possible through the emergence of separate and internally coherent language blocks on the Internet. Interesting times!