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First Arabic website names go live

Egypt's Ministry of Communications is one of the first websites to have a full Arabic address after internet regulator Icann enabled full web addresses in non-Latin characters.

Egypt's Ministry of Communications is one of the first websites to have a full Arabic address after internet regulator Icann enabled full web addresses in non-Latin characters.

The move - the first major change to the internet domain name system since it was set up in the 1980s - is expected to open the web to billions more users in China, the Far East and Middle East, where users will no longer have to switch their keyboard settings to type in the last part of a web address.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the first countries to have country codes in Arabic scripts using a system that will also allow web addresses in Chinese, Thai and Tamil scripts.

More than 20 countries have requested new international domains in 11 languages from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).

Until now, websites could use some non-Latin letters, but the country codes had to be written in Latin script.

The three new codes will allow web addresses to be written completely in Arabic script from right to left, but Icann warned that the internationalised domain names (IDNs), as they are known, would not work on all computers immediately.

The language software on some computers will have to be updated to include a full set of fonts that will allow them to show every IDN.

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