Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the first countries to win preliminary approval for Internet addresses written entirely in their native scripts. Since their creation in the 1980s, Internet domain names have been limited to the 26 characters in the Latin alphabet used in English, as well as 10 numerals and the hyphen. Technical tricks have been used to allow portions of the Internet address to use other scripts, but until now, the suffix had to use those 37 characters.
An announcement Thursday by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, paves the way for an entire domain name to appear in Cyrillic or Arabic by the middle of this year. Applications for strings in other languages are pending.