All-Hebrew Web Addresses to Be Available in 2010

Domain names will also be available in other non-Latin scripts, including Cyrillic and Arabic.

The first all-Hebrew domain names will become available in 2010, announced the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body governing domain names.

Domain names will become available in several other non-Latin scripts as well, including Mandarin Chinese, Cyrillic and Arabic.

The main issue facing Hebrew domain names - the fact that Hebrew is written from right to left - has been solved, said Rimon Levy, president of the Israel Internet Association, which is responsible for registering domain names with Israel's suffix, .il.

"ICANN has completed studying the matter, and the registration process can now begin," Levy said.

The Israel Internet Association says there currently are 154,509 domain names that end in .il, all of them in Latin script. Levy says the main problem for domain names in Hebrew script is that they are less accessible from computers without Hebrew installed.

ICANN, which met in Seoul on Thursday, called the process of allowing domain names in non-Latin languages "the internationalization of the Internet."

China, as well as some Arab countries, played an important role in urging the organization to allow alternatives to Latin script.

In recent years, Chinese-language Web content has expanded enormously, and there are currently more Web users in China than in any other country - approximately 338 million as of mid-2009.

"Some populations do not even have access to the Latin alphabet, which presents a serious obstacle to Web access," said Doron Shikmoni, a board member at the Israel Internet Association.

Currently, people can register domain names in Hebrew script that end in .com, but this option is clumsy, and few such names are in use.

Domain names are registered through private companies that have received Israel Internet Association authorization.

About a year ago, an Israeli domain name provider announced that it would permit users to register names with suffixes in Hebrew characters. However, ICANN said such addresses did not conform to the standard, and would not be recognized.

"There were attempts to do this before the time had come, but what we are seeing now is completely different," Levy said.