Arabic web addresses go live: A positive move for Arabic language?

So yesterday Thursday 6th May 2010 was the first day that non-latin web addresses went live, this now means that web addresses can be in other languages and not just English.We are used to website addresses in Arabic but in latin letters, but now the address can be in Arabic letters too! For Arabists and linguists looking at the ‘demise’ of Arabic as something inevitable, they will be pleased that Arabic will maintain a high profile visibility on a platform like the internet along with English.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Emirates are the first three Arab countries to have taken the opportunity to use non-latin codes for web addresses.  Russia also applied and was approved and now their web addresses will be written in Cyrillic- obviously in this post the emphasis is on Arabic.  

The following is taken from the BBC:  “All three [3 new suffixes] are Arabic script domains, and will enable domain names written fully right-to-left,” said Kim Davies of Icann in a blog post. One of the first websites with a full Arabic address is the Egyptian Ministry of Communications. Egypt’s communication and information technology minister Tarek Kamal told the Associated Press that three Egyptian companies were the first to receive registrar licences for the ‘.masr’ domain, written in Arabic”.

This will mean that those with Arabic keyboards can easily use Arabic letters to find websites of their choice, as I am sure in the next few years we will see more sites transferring to Arabic. Such visibility will allow and perhaps promote the Arabic language on many levels and will make speakers and readers of Arabic feel some sense of empowerment.  This may also be a message that Arabic is a language of the future and is as important as the English language. The fact that this has been allowed to happen is an evidence against some parties who believe that there is a conspiracy to get rid of Arabic as a language. It also challenges the idea that English language is as powerful a displacer as is often talked about, and that there is space for other languages to assert themselves at the same high and influential levels. Addresses in Arabic will encourage reading from right to left therfore promote and maybe make reading Arabic easier?!

We’ll wait and see how this unfolds during the next few months now that the licenses have been granted- it is actually quite exciting!