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Dubai: The internet's domain name system (DNS) has been upgraded to recognise Arabic language domain names, Gulf News has learnt.

Baher Esmat, Middle East regional manager for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — the agency that regulates internet domain names — said the system was re-set on Wednesday to recognise non-Latin characters in the domain areas of internet browsers.

Domain names "have been physically added to the route zone file. Once the names are in the route zone file, they [Arab countries] can technically accept registrations from registrants" for Arab-only domain names," Esmat said last night from Cairo.

He confirmed that Arabic domain names placed into the system and be spelled out in Arabic script are the UAE's .emarat, Saudi Arabia's .alsaudi and Egypt's .misr.

With the Arabic domain system up and running, Esmat said it is now up to each of the countries' telecom authorities to decide when they want to launch the Arabic domain names.

According to Reuters, Egypt's Communications Ministry said yesterday it had launched the first internet domain name using Arabic letters to try to boost e-services and the number of people online in the most populous Arab nation.

"Introducing Arabic domain names is a milestone in internet history," Communications Minister Tarek Kamel said in a statement. "This great step will open up new horizons for e-services in Egypt. It will boost the number of online users in the country and will enable internet services to penetrate new market segments by eliminating language barriers."

Icaan's Esmat said the latest addition to the web will be pivotal.

"Think about the next billion internet users, where they are going to come from, and what languages they use. Think about the majority of the Arab population that use Arabic language in their daily life and would still rather use it on the internet. This population is hungry for more localised applications, and if they could access those applications though IDN-based addresses [Arabic in our case], we would see tens of millions of new Arab users online in the next few years," Esmat said.

Adrian Kinderis, Chief Executive Officer, AusRegistry International, told Gulf News from his firm's headquarters in Melbourne that the new .emarat domain name is history in the making.

"The introduction of IDN Top Level Domains is an exciting proposition for the Arabic community as it provides new opportunities for Arabic speaking web users, along with Arab companies to properly express their identities, in Arabic, for the first time. They will now be able to fully participate in the global conversation."

AusRegistry International was instrumental several years ago in helping the UAE government launch the .ae domain name and once again will be called upon again to help with the .emarat Arabic domain name, he said.

"I am excited that we are able to support the TRA as industry pioneers with the introduction of the new .emarat IDN. There is little doubt that this revolution in technology is going to leave the people of the United Arab Emirates with a legacy and asset forever and this is certainly something that the TRA should be very proud of," he said.

In a press release issued in April by AusRegistry International, the TRA's top official welcomed the partnership.

Mohammad Gaith, Executive Director of the TRA said: "AusRegistry International has played a critical role in the success we have achieved in developing the .ae ccTLD to be one of the leading ccTLDs in the region, and we look forward to their assistance in replicating that success with the .emarat IDN ccTLD."

The TRA has not elaborated on its plans to roll out the Arabaic .emarat domain name.