The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) has approved the use of internationalised domain names (IDNs), web addresses made up of non-Latin characters, such as Chinese, Korean and Arabic.
The decision comes after two years of investigation, and should bring some web commonality to users of languages including Chinese and Arabic.
"This is a culmination of years of work, tests, study and discussion by the Icann community," said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the board of directors at Icann.
"To see this finally start to unfold is to see the beginning of an historic change in the internet and who uses it."
The IDNs could be in use early next year, and industry members have been quick to comment on its significance.
"The introduction of IDNs is a major turning point in the history of the internet," said Lesley Cowley, chief executive at domain registrar Nominet, who is attending an Icann meeting in Seoul.
"There are currently an estimated 1.6 billion people using the internet and a further five billion who are not yet online. Most of these people are from nations where the language is not based on the Latin script."
Cowley added that organisations should start planning for the change now by communicating with their audience and protecting their brands against cyber squatters.
"For brand owners there is a requirement to be aware and plan for the introduction of these new domains, whether it's for brand protection purposes, or to market via this new channel," she said.
Nora Nanayakkara, director of business development at domain name marketplace Sedo, also warned that the introduction of non-Latin characters could cause problems for brand owners, particularly as subtle differences may make them easy to spoof and difficult for web surfers to spot.
"Security measures will need to be taken extremely seriously. Concerns have already been underlined that sites where users don't see a small accent could attract phishing scams," she said.
"For example, the incidental difference between BankofAmerica.com and BánkofAmerica.com would be a prime opportunity for cyber criminals to take advantage of the average web user."
However, Neil Barton, UK director of hosting firm Hostway, welcomed the news as "a very positive step".
"Businesses that are trading online will be particularly happy with this news, as over time it will create the opportunity to sell to millions of new customers."
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