Multilingualism and IDNs

Exploring the status of multilingual content online.

Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace

There is international consensus on the need to promote linguistic diversity, in cyberspace as well as offline. This is reflected in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action line C8 (Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content) and UNESCO’s Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace (2003).

In previous reports, we have explored the status of multilingual content online, and noted the gap between the rich diversity of languages spoken in the offline world, and the languages of cyberspace – English is the language of more than half of web content.

As our annual reports have noted, there is a wide gap between the availability of diverse languages in popular web applications, and the continuing challenge of ensuring universal acceptance of internationalised domain names.

Nevertheless, where IDNs are in use, the language of web content is more diverse than it is with traditional ASCII domains. While there is a long way to go before we see the same linguistic diversity online as there is offline, IDNs seem to help redress the balance, at least as far as the most-spoken languages are concerned.

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