In ICANN’s Tower of Babel, Edmon Chung Asks: “What If the Net Were Invented in China?”

Edmon ChungThis week, ICANN waded into the issue of providing Internet addresses in non-roman characters. BusinessWeek has detailed coverage of the politics and complexity of countries with multiple languages and dialects who want Internet addressing translated to their native characters and words. The BBC calls this “the biggest Internet shake-up in decades.”

Ask a Dumb Question, Get a Dumb Answer
In an attempt to illustrate the dire need for fully multilingual addressing, Edmon Chung, the Hong Kong-based CEO of the .Asia domain, asked readers to:

“Imagine for a moment how inconvenient it would be if the Internet had been invented in China and each time you typed in an address you had to use Chinese characters.”

But to imagine this realistically, Mr. Chung, is to to imagine the world without the Internet at all. The Internet wasn’t invented, it was developed. And if it had been developed in China, it would have been designed for state use, run by officials, firewalled, monitored, and certainly not extended to other countries. Now that would be inconvenient.

It is unimaginable that in 1990, China would have migrated the Internet to a civilian infrastructure. It is inconceivable that it would allow individuals to connect their own servers, and pass packets without central management.

Multilingualism is the great challenge to making the Internet of greater value to all users. But it is easy for members of the bureaucracy to forget that flat organizational structures and relatively simple user requirements allowed this ubiquitous communications medium to be popularized in less than a generation.

Globalized addressing is rife with arcane political issues. Hopefully, an iterative approach for implementation can be found, so that the desire for a perfect solution doesn’t become the enemy of realistic possible ones.

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