SEOUL (Reuters) - The body in charge of assigning the world's Internet users their online addresses on Friday said it had agreed to allow the use of any of the world's scripts, no longer just the Latin alphabet.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which approved the change at a meeting in Seoul, said in a statement it could lead to a dramatic rise in the number of Internet users.
"This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet," ICANN's President and CEO Rod Beckstrom was quoted as saying.
"We have just made the Internet much more accessible to millions of people in regions such as Asia, the Middle East and Russia."
The program will be rolled out in stages, starting November 16.
Initially, it will allow internationalized domain names (IDNs) using scripts such as Chinese, Korean or Arabic for the country code designators at the end of an address name.
Eventually, the use of IDNs will be expanded to all types of Internet address names.
ICANN was set up in 1998 and operated under the aegis of the U.S. Commerce Department. It decides what names can be added to the Internet's top level domains (TLDs) such as .com as well as country designations.
Last month, the U.S. government agreed to changes that in effect meant ICANN would no longer report solely to the United States.
Reporting by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Nick Macfie