Nobody needs Arabic domain names

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has been offering Arabic language domain names since 2012, but luckily, it does not seem that anyone in Oman has made the mistake of actually using one.

Very few people know that it is possible to register a domain name that is entirely made up of Arabic characters. This is not the same as registering an Arabic word written using the Latin alphabet, such as Shura.om, but domain names that are written entirely using Arabic language characters, such as تعليم عمان

Almost ten years ago, ICANN, the global authority for regulating domain names, announced that it will allow the registration of top-level internationalised domain names written in local languages and scripts other than the Latin alphabet. Since then, numerous countries applied for top-level domain names in languages such as Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic. In our region, Qatar, Saudi, the UAE, Yemen and many others registered the name of their own country as a top-level domain name in Arabic to allow individuals to register Arabic domain names under this extension.

Even though it has been almost a decade since these internationalised domain names have been made available, nobody seems to be using them. Contrary to what was argued by the proponents of internationalised domain names, you do not need to have an internationalised domain name to publish content written in non-Latin scripts. We have had web content written in the Arabic language before Arabic domain names came out, and we continue to do so without using these domain names.

One of the arguments that were presented to ICANN when the proposal to introduce internationalised domain names was being considered was that these new domain names can make the Internet more exclusive because, as it was argued, they will remove the entry barriers facing Internet users who speak languages written in non-Latin alphabets. Of course, this argument could not be taken seriously because most Internet users rely on search engines to access most content on the Internet and do not type down the URLs of websites they visit.

Had internationalised domain names actually picked up, they would have made the Internet less, not more, inclusive. Imagine if an Omani university decided to adopt an Arabic domain name and required all of its staff and students to have email addresses written in the Arabic language. Unless this hypothetical university created an alternative English language alias for each user, it would be impossible for any of the users of these email accounts to share their addresses with someone who does not speak Arabic, which would have created a barrier for communication between these users and the rest of the world.

There is no public statistical evidence of how many Arabic Omani domain names have been registered, but it is easy to see that nobody is using them. No reasonable person would replace having a domain name written in English with one written in Arabic, and therefore anybody who would decide to acquire an Arabic domain name would only do so as a secondary alias for the website. This would double the domain name registration fees for the organisation and would have serious implications on website branding and communication efforts.

The only justification for allowing individuals to register domain names in a non-Latin alphabet is the right of these individuals to choose to have a domain name in whatever language they choose. However, web managers in Oman have wisely chosen not to exercise this right.

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