Double Byte FontsWe all know our normal latin characters. We know them world-wide because English is the primary trade language.

We also know that the Internet has been based on the latin character set. There has been a shift away from this to UTF-8 encoding. But there is now a larger shift. We’re approaching the 20th birthday of the Web, and for the first twenty years the web has been based on Latin-1 for domain names. This is about to change.

English is still the predominant language on the web but, this will not last for long. The Chinese are quickly becoming the dominant player online despite the Great Firewall of China.

And so I want you to read a post by Andy, which does great justice to the background of this change and the moumental affects if will have on the web as we know it today:

Even though, in the foreground, this change will make the Web seem much more universal to all people, in the background ICANN has implemented a huge translation workaround that needed to be tested for absolute safety. And when you’re taking on well over 100,000 potential characters that appear in URLs as opposed to the 30 or so which were in use before, you really need to take care.

“This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and a historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet,” said ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush in Seoul. “The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs in the domain name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online — people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives.”

In two weeks, all countries will be able to apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name and using their own characters. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on domains, trademark specialists, and on the domains we know and love. It will also have an impact on search engines.

The expression “keywords in the URL” will now have a truly global meaning and affect the way we manage global sites. Clearly, someone just put their foot on the global gas pedal.

Read more of Andy’s post on the SEO impact of double-byte characters in domain names

The SEO impact for local searches outside of latin character regions will be huge. But Search Engines will have to change their index algorithms to keep up with this. I’m waiting and watching, this could be fun!