The next Internet revolution will not be in English

This visual depicts about half of the currently approved internationalized domain names (IDNs), positioned over their respective regions.

Notice the wide range of scripts over India and the wide range of Arabic domains. I left off the Latin country code equivalents (in, cn, th, sa, etc.) to illustrate what the Internet is going to look like (at a very high level) in the years ahead.

This next revolution is a linguistically local revolution. In terms of local content, it is already happening. Right now, more than half of the content on the Internet is not in English. Ten years from now, the percentage of English content could easily drop below 25%.

But there are a few technical obstacles that have so far made the Internet not as user friendly as it should be for people in the regions highlighted above. They’ve been forced to enter Latin-based URLs to get to where they want to go. Their email addresses are also Latin-based. This will all change over the next two decades.

For those of us who are fluent only in Latin-based languages, this next wave of growth is going to be interesting, if not a bit challenging. In a Latin-based URL environment, you can still easily navigate to and around non-Latin web sites and brands. For example, if I want to find Baidu in China, I can enter www.baidu.cn. For Yandex in Russia, it’s yandex.ru.

But flash forward a few years and these Latin URLs (though they’ll still exist) may no longer function as the front doors into these markets.

Try Яндекс.рф. It currently redirects to Yandex.ru.

In a few years, I doubt this redirection will exist.

We’re getting close to a linguistically local Internet — from URL to email address. There are still significant technical obstacles to overcome. It will be exciting to see which companies take the lead in overcoming them — as these companies will be well positioned to be leaders in these emerging markets.

UPDATE: I’ve expanded on this topic in a recent article on IP Watch.

If Russians are wary of Cyrillic domains, who’s buying them?

About a year ago, the NY Times ran an article with the headline: Russians Wary of Cyrillic Web Domains.

As someone who has long been bullish on the future of internationalized domain names (IDNs), I caught a fair amount of grief once this story broke.

So when I see this evening that 460,000 Cyrillic domains (.рф) have been registered in the first five days, I feel somewhat vindicated.

Somewhat, because I believe more than half of these registrations are from squatters. Maybe as many as 75%.

Still, even if we assume 350,000 registrations will just sit there awaiting a higher bid, that would leave another 100,000 destined to be put into use sooner than later. And that alone is a respectable number. Keep in mind that there are only 3 million .ru domains — in all — registered.

Could it be that Russians are excited about Cyrillic domains?

President Mednevedev has his domain working: президент.рф.

As does Russia’s largest mobile carrier: МТС.рф.

What do you think?