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Cyrillic on the Internet

It is easy to forget in Serbia that the issue of Cyrillic in digital technologies is not just a problem here but one faced by many other countries that use Cyrillic as an official script. Similar problems are also being encountered by other ethnic groups and countries with scripts other than the English alphabet.

However, Serbia has a range of unique problems which are a legacy from the past, problems with code pages, fonts and the transcription of English words into Serbian. Many of these problems could have been solved much earlier had the government shown more interest in the issue of the Serbian script. The most obvious problem with the use of Serbian Cyrillic in computing is the lack of Cyrillic keyboards on the market.

Cyrillic Internet domains

ICANN began the process of introducing internationalised country code top-level domains (IDN ccTLDs) in November 2009. On 12th May 2010, Russia became the first country to register a domain written in the Cyrillic script, with the extension .РФ (rf - Russian Federation). On 3rd May 2011, Serbia became the second country to get its own Cyrillic domain – .СРБ. Subsequently, .УКР (ukr) was delegated to Ukraine, .ҚАЗ (kaz) to Kazakhstan and .МОН (mon) to Mongolia. On 2014 Macedonia got its own Cyrillic domain, .МКД (mkd), and .БГ (br) was approved for use by Bulgaria.

All national Cyrillic domains are part of the internationalised domain name (IDN) family, comprising those domain names written in scripts other than the English alphabet. The first IDN ccTLDs using the Arabic script, were activated on 5th May 2010 for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Top-level domains written in several variants of the Chinese script were activated on 25th June 2010. Since then a large number of Arab and Far East countries have received approval for domains in the national script, or have begun the procedure to do so.

There are also Cyrillic gTLDs such as .САЙТ (sayt - “site”) and .ОНЛАЙН (onlayn - “online”) intended for the Russian, Bulgarian and similar markets. Websites with Cyrillic domains are more easily found in Google local searches when carried out from countries using Cyrillic script. Other domains belonging to the same category include .РУС (rus), .ДЕТИ (deti - “children”), .ОРГ (org) and .МОСКВА (moskva – “Moscow”).

The main problem currently faced by the .СРБ domain, and by the other IDN domains around the world, is the technical barrier to using letters from a non-English alphabet to the left of the “@” in e-mail addresses. The problem can be solved at a local level, but a global solution is being awaited which would handle all world scripts on the major platforms for writing and exchanging e-mails.