Skip to main content

Sri Lankan Community Preparing for a Multilingual Internet Using Local Scripts

Work commences on enabling Sinhala and Tamil scripts for top-level domain names

This page is available in:

Colombo, Sri Lanka… The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and local experts in policy, technical and linguistic fields convened in Colombo today to introduce the Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) program and launch the Sinhala Generation Panel (GP). The launch signifies an exciting future where the local community contributes towards developing secure and stable access to the Internet in Sinhala.

The Asia Pacific region is linguistically diverse. Of the 6,800 languages in the world, about half of them or 3,500 are spoken in APAC. 21 of the top 30 most spoken languages in the world are used in the region. This diversity adds challenges to the Internet domain name space.

"IDNs are domain names represented by letters or characters from different scripts and writing systems. They offer the possibility of using the domain names in languages across the globe, including Sinhala, Tamil, Thai, Chinese, Hindi, and others. Thus, providing a truly multilingual Internet with greater flexibility and opportunities for billions of users," said Sarmad Hussain, ICANN's IDN Programs Director.

"The ability for Internet users to come online in their native languages and scripts is a significant development for the Internet. As Sinhala is a commonly used language in Sri Lanka, the work by the Sinhala GP will lay the groundwork for allowing complete domain names in the Sinhalese language," added Hussain.

The Sinhala GP comprises two Co-Chairs and a number of local community representatives from the policy, linguistic fields, as well as members with technical expertise in Sinhala language computing, Unicode and the Internet's domain name system.

Harsha Wijayawardhana, Co-Chair of the Sinhala GP, said, "We are all extremely excited about this new development. The Sinhala GP will work on developing root zone label generation rules for the Sinhala script. There will be significant technical work involved, such as developing the rules for computers to understand how to form correct top-level domain names in Sinhala script. Our efforts will help to form the basis for allowing complete domain names in the Sinhala language."

Earlier this week, members of the Sinhala GP attended a workshop to discuss the work plan and next steps. The Neo-Brahmi GP is also in Colombo this week. They are developing label generation rules for nine Neo-Brahmi scripts including Tamil, the other commonly used language in Sri Lanka. When both the Sinhala and Neo-Brahmi GPs' work are completed, Sri Lankans can look forward to accessing the Internet's domain name system using domain names in their scripts and languages.

Work has been completed by the respective GPs for the Arabic, Armenian, Cyrillic, Ethiopic, Georgian, Khmer, Lao and Thai scripts, and is underway for many more, including Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Korean, and Latin scripts. ICANN is currently calling for volunteers to form GPs for these four scripts: Hebrew, Myanmar, Tibetan and Thaana.

Enabling a Multilingual Internet – Additional Information

In addition to developing rules to form valid top-level domains (TLDs) in the local script, many computing systems need to be upgraded as they do not recognize or appropriately process new domain names, primarily because the TLD or IDN may be more than three characters in length or in an alternate format. The same is true for email addresses that incorporate these new extensions.

The Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG), supported by ICANN, is a community-led, Internet industry-wide initiative working on creating awareness and identifying and resolving problems associated with the universal acceptance of domain names. To learn more, or report an issue with Universal Acceptance, please visit


For more information on IDNs, please visit here.
For more information on UA, please visit here.

Media Contacts


Liana Teo
Head of Communications, APAC
Tel: +65 6816 1259
Mobile: +65 9796 5500

Fiona Aw
Global Communications Coordinator
Tel: +65 6816 1264
Mobile: +65 9113 6621


ICANN's mission is to help ensure a stable, secure and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet, you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN helps coordinate and support these unique identifiers across the world. ICANN was formed in 1998 as a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation and a community with participants from all over the world.

Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."