United Nations IGF Meeting

.αθήνα | .cat | .中国 | .berlin | .上海 | .cym | . | .nyc
GeoTLDs – Diversity, Multilingualism and Local Content


Over the past couple of years, the concept of offering choice in domain names has become generally accepted. Users recognise that the ending of a domain name may express the community that the domain relates to, or the community that the registrant wishes to relate to. In this context, the cultural, regional, local or linguistic community gains importance. A number of recent Top-Level Domains – the latest in this group is .asia – illustrate this trend.

This trend combines naturally with the need to use one’s native script for domain names, including the ending of the domain name – whether it be on the right (in a left-to right writing system) or on the left (in a right-to-left writing system). Or, who knows, the top-level domain might eventually also appear the bottom: with a stylus on a handheld electronic device, writing top-to-bottom is more convenient, as it was 4000 years earlier on paper rolls. The use of Internationalized Domain Names on the Top Level (IDN.IDN) has become a key area of development. Along with it, the principle of using domains relating to a local, linguistic or cultural community offers unprecedented potential for Internet users.

A number TLD registries and user initiatives have recognized this. China’s .cn registry has introduced .中国, which means China. Arab experts are working on the representation of their country top-level domains in Arabic. Korea’s .kr registry has introduced functional secondlevel domains for main cities, such as .seoul.kr or .busan.kr. The Catalan linguistic and cultural community launched .cat this year. A number of communities prepare projects for city and linguistic TLDs, such as .nyc, .berlin, .cym or .bzh. The list is growing because there is a need.

GeoTLDs – we explain the need to coin such a term in one of the articles – will be an important step for the development of the Internet, for its diversity, for fostering local content, for better understanding. We might put it as bluntly as this: Restricting the choice of vocabulary does not normally improve understanding. Extending the choice of vocabulary mostly does, even if it requires learning.

Werner Staub and Dirk Krischenowski

Read the full paper here.