Asia is one of the most linguistically, ethnically and religiously diverse continents on the planet. Its kaleidoscope of nations and cultures is well reflected in its range of flags.
Just like Africa and South America, which we explored earlier on in the Animated ccTLD Flags series, Asia was once part of foreign empires, but is also home to many countries which escaped colonialism and have a long and vibrant history.
Asia is home to a wide variety of alphabets and writing systems, which makes it an interesting point to note in what comes next. While the first set of ccTLDs which became current from the 1980s onwards (and featured in our series) were rendered solely in the Roman alphabet, the advances in internet and computing technologies mean that such domains are no longer restricted only to Western-style letters.
In October 2009, at its annual meeting in Seoul, South Korea, the organisation in charge of TLDs, ICANN, announced a plan to extend the range of alphabets enabled for use in domains and URLs from the old American influenced system of writing ‘root zones’ in Latin characters. At this critical meeting, ICANN representatives tabled a motion to introduce the ‘Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)’ which would enable people using other scripts to use the Web in those scripts, thus ending the discrimination of the current state web in favour of those using languages written in the Roman alphabet. The new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program, approved at the ICANN meeting in Singapore in June 2011, paved the way for countries using other scripts to create their own TLDs in their own writing.
By May 2010, the first such internationalised codes were implemented for Arabic, applying to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Russia followed soon after. According to ICANN, Arabic was chosen for the initial rollout because it is one of the most widely used non-Latin languages on the Internet. Languages in India and much of South Asia were then catered for. As of December 2014 there are 45 approved internationalized country code top-level domains. The most used are .рф (Russia) with over 900,000 domains names, .台灣(Taiwan) with around 500,000 and .中国 (China) with over 200,000 domains.
A comprehensive list of IccTLDs published by Wikipedia.
The oldest flag-like object ever found, according to one source, was a metal square sheet mounted on a copper pole. Dating to the third millennium BC (BCE) it was uncovered in an archaeological site near Shahdad in Iran. Depicting depicts two figures facing one another on a rich background of animals, plants, and goddesses, the vexilloid is still a mystery as to what purpose it served or who created it.
Asia is also home to the world’s only pennant style national flag, that of Nepal. Nepal adopted this unique flag with its crescent moon and sun design in 1962, and the deep red is said to reflect the hue of the rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower.
.hk Hong Kong
.lk Sri Lanka
.sa Saudi Arabia
.tp East Timor
.vn Viet Nam
Next weekend, we’ll be completing the final leg of our world ccTLD tour by visiting Australia, New Zealand and a panoply of beautiful ‘South Sea’ islands as we move southwards to Australasia, otherwise known as Oceania. This will be our second to last article in the series, and the very final blogpost will bring all of the flags together as a reference, possibly to be arranged in alphabetical order.
Previous Articles in the Series