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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Tomorrow a big vote is coming up. The web regulators who oversee the domain-name system - you know, those dot-com, dot-net, dot-org things - they're called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and they're going to vote on whether or not to open up that space. If the vote goes through, as everyone says it will, the system will open to allow almost any string of letters. Imagine Google-dot-Google, or NPR-dot-news, or Pesca-dot-truth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MIKE PESCA, host:

Yeah, right. Imagine the (unintelligible).

MARTIN: That's my favorite one. Beyond the fact that we may be able to register the domain names of our hopes and dreams, why should we care about this change? Well, it's time for our regular BPP feature, Make Me Care. Joining us on the line, stepping up to the plate, is the BCC news technology editor, Darren Waters. He's a co-dot-uk type, if you didn't guess that already. Hey, Darren.

Mr. DARREN WATERS (News Technology Editor, BBC News): Hey, you guys.

MARTIN: Thanks for being here. Let's start with a little bit of an explanation.

Mr. WATERS: Sure.

MARTIN: The Internet, what is the state of - this is a big question. What's the state of the Internet, Darren, as far as the present restrictions, when it comes to domain names? You can't have anything, there are only a few, right?

Mr. WATERS: No, that's absolutely right. It's a short question, but with a big answer, so I'll try to be brief. So essentially, the Internet is like a global address book to make it very simple to use. So that if I want to go to google.com, I type in google.com, and I'm not sent to another website. Because these websites all around the world, they don't really have names. They have numbers called Internet protocol numbers.

MARTIN: Mm-hm.

Mr. WATERS: And of course, that's really dull typing in numbers for a website. It would mean you'd have to remember loads and loads of telephone numbers, effectively. So to make it simple, we have this called the domain-name system. I put in google.com, I put in NPR, I put in bbc.co.uk, and this global address book directs me to all the right kind of places around the world.

Now when the Internet was first set up, there was a limited number of those domain names which were handed out for the world to use, and they were dot-coms. They were related to different countries, such as dot-co-dot-uk or dot-fr for France. The plan now is to widen that, to make it much more comprehensive that you could have almost any kind of string of letters that you can imagine.

MARTIN: Sounds - I have to admit - a little overwhelming. Before we get to the ramifications of the vote tomorrow, we're going to put you to the test, Darren. You've agreed to this.

Mr. WATERS: OK.

MARTIN: We're going to put 60 seconds on the BPP Make Me Care clock. When you hear the ticking at the end, you have ten seconds to wrap up your argument, and the bell means you are simply out of time.

Mr. WATERS: OK.

MARTIN: OK, 60 seconds on the clock. Darren Waters , BBC news technology editor, Make Us Care!

Mr. WATERS: The Internet, well, it's changed our lives. It's changed our lives because it's global. I can go to a website in America. I can go to a website in Italy. I can go to a website in almost any country of the world, because it's been set up to be so simple to use. I don't have to remember numbers. I just type in google.com, and it's one Internet. It's one Internet that we all share. And we get to get news from all around the world, see places we've never been to, hear about things that we could never imagine, all because of a very simple-to-use system.

But at the moment, only people who use Latin characters - that's A-B-C-D-E-F to Z, as we know it - can use these domain names, because they're all in Latin characters. Now that's great for you and I. We use them all the time. What happens if your main language is in Arabic, or your alphabet is Cyrillic, or it's an Asian language?

(Soundbite of clock ticking)

Mr. WATERS: You don't use A-B-C-D-E, so for hundreds and millions of people around the world, this is blocked off. And so, these changes will allow, for the first time, people to type in an address in the actual alphabet they use.

(Soundbite of bell)

Mr. WATERS: Now this is important for all of us, why? Well, because there were fears...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You ran out of time, but go ahead, finish your talk.

Mr. WATERS: That if this didn't happen, then the Internet would break up in to lots of different sections. So there would no longer be one Internet. There would be an Internet in China. There would be an Internet in the U.S. There would be an Internet in India. And imagine how dull a world that would be, where I couldn't call up a page in India, or China, or parts of the Middle East, or parts of Africa. So, this vote is important, because for the very first time, it means we will have a stronger guarantee that there will be one Internet for all of us, one net that we can all share this information around the world, and do that in our own language.

PESCA: (Singing) We are the net. We are the children.

MARTIN: One Internet for us all!

PESCA: What a good job.

MARTIN: Darren, you totally made me care. I mean, this...

Mr. WATERS: Do you care? I hope you care. (Unintelligible).

MARTIN: I really do care. And I hear the passion in your voice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I mean - but one of the arguments that you put forth is that people who don't use Roman characters in their language, Japanese or Arabic, will be able to, so they're going to able to type in Chinese characters as a suffix? Or Japanese characters?

Mr. WATERS: They could put a whole string. So, whatever google.com is in the Cyrillic alphabet, they'll be able to type it. Whether it's google.com in an Arabic language, they'll be able to type it in the language of their choice.

MARTIN: Wow. Now...

Mr. WATERS: So it's a very important step in keeping the Internet together as one Internet for all of us.

MARTIN: Now, who's making money off of all this? You have to imagine that someone is.

Mr. WATERS: Well, ICAN, the people who are responsible for the Internet, they are a not-for-profit organization. So, the money that they will be charging for you and I and companies to apply for these new domain names, and this is going to be quite pricey, they say they're not going to be making any money out of it. Problem is, it's not entirely clear where this money will actually end up. And this is one of the big things that we need to find out, to find out whether this money will be used sensibly. Perhaps for the betterment of the Internet in the future, because a lot of money will be generated from this.

MARTIN: Because it's going to cost, how much, to get one of these kind of more personalized domain names?

Mr. WATERS: Again, they're not saying, but I'm hearing figures that start from around 50,000 dollars.

MARTIN: Wow.

Mr. WATERS: So, that's for a very basic registration. Now, if you want to register, for example, dot-sport, and I imagine lots of people will...

MARTIN: Mm-hm.

Mr. WATERS: There will probably be an open auction, and who knows how much that will go for? Or dot-business, or -the very controversial one - dot-xxx.

MARTIN: Ah, and this was the sticking point. This is why this debate has kind of gone on a lot, because people didn't want that one out in the ethos.

PESCA: Right, because if they have dot.xxx, who knows? I can imagine a world where there becomes some pornography on the Internet, and that would be a horrible world, were that to occur.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WATERS: That it would, and it would be a surprise as well for the Internet, wouldn't it?

PESCA: Yeah, they wouldn't know how to deal with pornography on the Internet.

MARTIN: Darren Waters, technology editor for BBC News. You made us care. You explained us the intricacies of this very important vote. Thank you so much, sir. We appreciate your time.

Mr. WATERS: My pleasure.

MARTIN: Take care.

Mr. WATERS: Take care.

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: That was a success.

MARTIN: It was a success.

PESCA: I didn't even think about most of those things.

MARTIN: It was very good.

PESCA: The Cyrillic alphabet.

MARTIN: It's our...

PESCA: It's our friends, I believe, the Albanians, there are some Albanians who use the Cyrillic alphabet, well, back especially when the Russians had their foot on their neck. Anyway...

MARTIN: Mm-hm.

PESCA: Coming up, why where you live means who you're around. Wha (ph)? What's going on? Anyway, geography, where you live, it's really important.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: What are you talking about?

PESCA: I don't know. It's not The Ramble. It's really sad, but it is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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