Slouching Toward Multilingual .com

According to Associated Press, ICANN is inching closer to offering complete native-language domain names.

Now what does this mean?

There are two ways to offer an “internationalized” domain name.

The easy way, which is now available commercially, is to offer a non-Latin domain but continue to the use the traditional top level domain, such as .com or .org.

So what you end up with a mixture of Latin and non-Latin characters.

The better and much more complex internationalized domain is one that supports the native script across the full domain, including the top-level domain.

The .eu Domain is Spawning .edu Hacks

I should have seen this one coming. According to Bret Fausett’s blog, the .eu domain is being registered by individuals hoping to capitalize on Web users who leave off the “d” when typing in their favorite college URL.

For example, the domain is not owned by UCLA. The same goes for Vandy and Texas. And someone in the Netherlands grabbed the domain for my undergrad alma mater: Why didn’t I think of that?

Now, I have to believe that people will still find their way to their university Web sites, despite the efforts of those who have registered the .eu domains.

By the way, the folks at Harvard were on the ball and locked up their domain.

If you want to check out your school, visit

.eu: Coming to a Web Site Near You

According to this article ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) just gave the European Union the green light for using the .eu domain name.


I first wrote about the new .eu domain back in October and I suspect it could be a very good thing for global Web sites. Many companies offer only regional Web sites, which would be an ideal fit for the .eu domain.

Although I don’t believe .eu will eliminate the need to register country level domains, like .fr or .de, it can provide a neutral “first step” for companies doing business in Europe. It also saves those companies just entering the market from registering a dozen country domains (although I would generally recommend companies do that anyway).

Ultimately, it’s great news for registrars, because every multinational now has to add yet another domain to their annual list of renewals.

Here is the official word from the folks at ICANN:

Earlier this week, ICANN’s Board took steps to authorize the delegation of .EU as a ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain), and for ICANN Staff to enter into an agreement with EURid and to complete the delegation of .EU. The technical teams of ICANN’s IANA function and EURid are working together to complete the entry of .EU in the DNS root.

The two-letter code for the European Union (.EU) appears on the ISO 3166-1 reserved list of alpha two-letter codes of country names. At the request of the European Commission, the ISO Maintenance Agency extended the scope of this reservation to cover any application of the two-letter code representing the name European Union, including its being used as a TLD. Following this step, the European Union commenced a process, in partnership with ICANN, to designate the .EU ccTLD.

Delegation of a new top level domain requires the completion of a number of procedures. The key requirement is that for each domain there is a designated delegee for supervising that domain’s name space. In the case of .EU, the European Commission identified EURid as the appropriate organization to manage .EU.

The Danger of Internationalized Domain Names

Michael Kaplan explains one of the major dangers of internatinalized domain names (IDNs): phishing. One of the tactics that phishers use to con people is to create URLs that look like reputable URLs (; yet really aren’t. They do this by either slightly altering the URLs or using characters that appear similar to one another (o vs. 0). The more characters you allow within the domain name system, which is what IDNs are all about, the greater the odds for phishing to be successful.

ICANN Goes Global — Gradually

Since its inception, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has been criticized for favoring the U.S. over other countries. But with a new president in office, Australian Paul Twomey — the first non-U.S. citizen to be president — ICANN is promising a more global outlook.

Two weeks ago, ICANN took a big step towards making internationalized domain names (IDNs) — also known as multilingual domain names — a reality. Here are what IDNs look like:


An IDN allows a person or organization to register a domain name in any major language — from Chinese to Russian to Arabic. More important, IDNs allow non-English speakers to navigate the Internet without inputting all Roman characters for every address. While the underlying DNS will continue to rely on a subset of ASCII, the IETF has devised a way to overlay IDNs using the Unicode character set. It’s an imperfect solution, and not all techs are happy with it. For starters, the domain name is the only part of the URL that is allowed to use non-Roman characters — that is, “.com” will remain. Still, it’s a start.

On March 13th, ICANN issued the Standards for ICANN Authorization of Internationalized Domain Name Registrations in Registries with Agreements. These standards formalize four mandatory rules and two recommended rules that registries must follow in order to issue IDNs. Here they are:


1. Top-level domain registries that implement internationalized domain name capabilities must do so only in strict compliance with all applicable technical standards.

2. In implementing IDNA, top-level domain registries must employ an “inclusion-based” approach for identifying permissible code points from among the full Unicode repertoire, and, at the very least, must not include (a) line symbol-drawing characters, (b) symbols and icons that are neither alphabetic nor ideographic language characters, such as typographical and pictographic dingbats, (c) punctuation characters, and (d) spacing characters.

3. In implementing IDNA, top-level domain registries must (a) associate each registered domain name with one or more languages, (b) employ language-specific registration and administration rules that are documented and publicly available, such as the reservation of all domain names with equivalent character variants in the languages associated with the registered domain name, and (c) where the registration and administration rules depend on a character variants table, allow registrations in a particular language only when a character variants table for that language is available.

4. Registries must commit to working collaboratively through the IDN Registry Implementation Committee to develop character variants tables and language-specific registration policies, with the objective of achieving consistent approaches to IDN implementation for the benefit of DNS users worldwide.


5. In implementing IDNA, top-level domain registries should, at least initially, limit any given domain label (such as a second-level domain name) to the characters associated with one language only.

6. Top-level domain registries (and registrars) should provide customer service capabilities in all languages for which they offer internationalized domain name registrations.

Verisign Does Not Approve

IDNs have not evolved in a vacuum. For the past couple years Verisign (and other registries) have developed commercial products for registering IDNs and for making them work in existing browsers. Versign naturally sees signficant revenues in opening the doors to so many additional domain names. But it’s not at all pleased with ICANN’s new rules. Here is what Verisign had to say recently. It remains to be seen how closely Verisign and other registries abide by ICANN’s rules and recommendations.

What Next?

I believe that IDNs are going to become a fact of life on the Internet. The only significant growth of Internet users is coming from non-English-speaking countries, such as China, Korea, Russia, and the Arab Middle East. These people want to register the names of their companies in their native languages. I realize that making IDNs work on a global scale will be difficult and possbily danger to the DNS as a whole — but I also believe we need to move forward. The benefits of multilingual domain names far outweigh the risks of doing nothing at all.