The Internet is set to undergo one of the biggest changes in its four-decade history with the expected approval this week of international domain names --or addresses -- that can be written in languages other than English, an official said on Monday.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN -- the non-profit group that oversees domain names --is holding a meeting this week in Seoul. Domain names are the monikers behind every Web site, e-mail address and Twitter post, such as ".com" and other suffixes.
One of the key issues to be taken up by ICANN's board at this week's gathering is whether to allow for the first time entire Internet addresses to be in scripts that are not based on Latin letters.
That could potentially open up the Web to more people around the world, as addresses could be in characters as diverse as Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Greek, Hindi and Cyrillic -- in which Russian is written.
"This is the biggest change technically to the Internet since it was invented 40 years ago," Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the ICANN board, told reporters, calling it a "fantastically complicated technical feature."
He said he expects the board to grant approval on Friday, the conference's final day.
The Internet's roots are traced to experiments at a US university in 1969 but it wasn't until the early 1990s that its use began expanding beyond academia and research institutions to the public.