Net speaks Arabic

Tuesday 15 December 2009

DownToEarth Egypt will open the worlds first Arabic language Internet domain, its communications minister has said. Tarek Kamel said the new domain name would be .masr written in the Arabic alphabet. It translates as .Egypt. In October, the Internet regulator Icann voted to allow non-Latin web addresses. Domain names can now be written in Arabic, Chinese, Russian and other scripts.

Kamel said the new domain would offer avenues for innovation, investment and growth in the Arabic-speaking world. There are an estimated 40 million Arab Internet users, 15 million of them in Egypt.

International rights groups fear government censorship, with several bloggers and dissidents arrested in Egypt for security reasons. But Yahoos head Jerry Yang believes the Arabic domain is actually a great initiative. There are over 300 million Arabic speakers in the world, less than 1 per cent of the content online is in Arabic.

As part of the companys push to boost access in Arabic, Yang said Yahoo would offer its mail and messenger service in Arabic next year. He did not provide an exact date.

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