In 2009 there was a sizable Māori presence on the net. There were newspapers from the 19th and 20th century, dictionaries, including the first monolingual Māori dictionary, He pātaka kupu, and databases of tribal dialects, such as Te Papakupu o Te Taitokerau. Te Kete Ipurangi, a schools site, provided resources for kura kaupapa Māori and Māori immersion classes. Māori students also studied traditional and contemporary stories online in Te Ao Hou, a journal originally published in the 1950s to 1970s.
Initially the universal language adopted for the internet and computers was English, and so the Latin alphabet (used for English) was fully supported. There was almost no difficulty in displaying the Māori language on the internet and computers, as its alphabet was developed from the English alphabet.
The one difficulty was how to display vowel length. Short vowels and long vowels have been treated in three main ways:
- no marking – Maori
- duplicating long vowels – Maaori
- using a macron – Māori.
Because of the initial lack of easy technical support for macrons on computers, people either replaced macrons with umlauts – Mäori – or created Māori language fonts, which replaced the umlaut with a macron (but meant that an umlaut could not be used). But by the early 2000s the ability to display macrons was widely supported. The macron is known in Māori as a tohutō (sign of length) or colloquially as a pōtae (hat). Marking vowel length became important as a generation learnt Māori as a second language.
On 29 November 2005 Māori-language versions of the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office were released. The translation was a collaboration between Microsoft, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and Waikato University. On 24 July 2008 a fully translated Māori-language interface for Google was launched at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, a Māori university. It had been running for some years before its co-ordination was managed by TangataWhenua.com. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Waikato University and a number of native speakers were involved in the translation of the search screen.
In 2008 there was no operative Māori-language browser, but a prototype Māori-language version of Firefox was available. There are Māori-language entries on Wikipedia.
Māori second-level domain names
A top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of an internet address, such as .com or .nz. The name before a TLD is the second-level domain (2LD) – the most common in New Zealand are .co.nz, or .org.nz.
There are two Māori-specific 2LDs for New Zealand. These are .maori.nz and .iwi.nz. These 2LDs were initiated by the New Zealand Māori Internet Society (NZMIS), an organisation which represents Māori interests on the internet.
i18n and L10n
In web talk, internationalisation is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Localisation is the process of adapting software for a specific region or language, by adding locale-specific components and translating text. In geek-speak these are shortened to i18n (there are 18 letters between ‘i’ and ‘n’ in the word internationalisation) and L10n. The Māori locale is known as mi-nz. (The locale for speakers of New Zealand English is en-nz.)
Internationalised domain names
Initially the names available for domain registration were limited to English. Then there was a move towards making domain names available in other languages, called internationalised domain names (IDNs). This led to the ability to have a macron inserted into domain names – as well as maori.co.nz and maori.com web addresses, there are now māori.com and māori.co.nz.
Bilingual naming system
In 2007 the NZMIS suggested a bilingual domain name system for New Zealand – each domain would have a Māori and an English URL, which would reach the same site. It would be up to domain-name owners whether to use one or both.
Translations of common 2LDs are:
- .co.nz – .mahi.nz
- .net.nz – .ipu.nz
- .org.nz – .ropu.nz
- .gen.nz – .noa.nz
- .school.nz – .kura.nz
- .ac.nz – .wananga.nz or .wānanga.nz
Full Māori naming system
The opening of new top-level domains has led to suggestions that Māori should create their own equivalent of .com, and establish a whole new Māori naming hierarchy, including a bilingual domain name system, and even tribal names. URLs ending in .māori or .aotearoa have been suggested.
The NZMIS has also suggested an Aotearoa domain with the TLD of .aa.