Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Egypt launches Arabic web domain

Person typing
Egypt has 15 million internet users

Egypt will open the world's first Arabic language internet domain, its communications minister has said.

Tarek Kamel said the new domain name would be ".masr" written in the Arabic alphabet. It translates as ".Egypt".

"It is a great moment for us... The internet now speaks Arabic," Mr Kamel said.

Last month, internet regulator Icann voted to allow non-Latin web addresses. Domain names can now be written in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts.

Mr Kamel, who was speaking at the start of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) being held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, said a formal announcement would be made on Monday.

It makes me proud to see my country's name on the internet

Ahmed Omar Koriem, Cairo

Registration for addresses with the .masr ending would begin at midnight (2200 GMT), he said.


He said the new domain would "offer new avenues for innovation, investment and growth" in the Arabic-speaking world.

Egypt currently has 15 million internet users out of a total population of 80 million.

But international rights groups have warned of heavy government censorship inside the country, with several bloggers and political dissidents being arrested for "security reasons".

On Sunday the Reporters Without Borders group criticised the choice of Egypt as venue for the IGF, saying it was "astonishing" that a government openly hostile to internet users had been assigned its organisation.

The forum, set up by the UN, is being attended by more than 1,000 participants including government ministers, businesspeople and net luminaries.

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