The first significant change to internet domain names in many years was made today when ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approved and deployed three domain names using a non-Latin script: Arabic.
You can already visit http://????.?????-?????????.???/ and two other Arabic script domain names, though they might not display correctly if your browser doesn’t have IDN (International Domain Name) support.
Using Mozilla Firefox 3.6.3 and Google Chrome Developer Build 5.0.375.29 for Mac, I was able to visit that web address but it displayed incorrectly in the address bar. When I visited the site in Apple Safari 4.0.5, it was written out correctly.
This change was expected this year. Obviously this doesn’t matter to you if you’re a native English speaker living in an English-speaking society, but if for those who are not, this is actually a big day. Web users whose native languages do not employ Latin-based writing had to acquire some familiarity with a new script in order to visit web addresses previously. The computer keyboard use involved got messy in some cases, too. Now those users can type in the scripts they are most familiar with. Arabic domains can even be written right-to-left.
This isn’t an under-the-hood change, though. The core functions and features in the domain system are all the same, but only browsers that support the new scripts will be able to work with the international domains.