Making sense of internationalized domain names

Paul Sawers of The Next Web has written an in-depth article on the evolution of internationalized domain names (IDNs).

It’s a great article for quickly getting up to speed on how non-Latin domains work on the Internet and how they’ve been doing over the past year since they went live. To be clear, although what I call partial IDNs have been around for many years it was only until last year that you could register a full-length IDNs – that is, both the domain name plus the country code in the local script (Cyrillic, Arabic, etc). And it is full-length IDNs that promise to change the way millions of people search for and use web sites.

Here’s the article.


India: One country, many IDNs

If you’re interested in learning more about IDNs, UNESCO and EURid recently released a report on the evolution and challenges of IDNs.

It’s a good read and it highlights some of the struggles that countries and registries face and taking IDNs mainstream. Though Russia has so far proven to be a major success story — with more than 800,000 IDN registrations so far (and counting) — most other IDNs are have a long ways to go yet. Arabic IDNs in particular face an uphill battle because web browsers offer poor (and inconsistent) support for them.

I noticed in the report that India’s IDNs were not all properly displayed. So here’s a screen shot from our IDN poster that illustrates the wealth of scripts used within India, as illustrated by the country’s seven (yes, seven) approved IDNs:

As of today, 26 countries have received one or more IDNs; I’ve collected the full list here.

When names collide

Kobo is the name of an eReader and bookstore that competes with the Amazon Kindle.

Flush with a recent investment, Kobo Inc. has big plans for going global, which, as an author, I’m very happy to see.

Here’s a recent announcement regarding expansion into Australia:

But there is an issue with regards to Australia.

KOBO is the name of a web design firm there, with a web site located at

They are apparently getting a surge of traffic, as they noted on their home page:

Here we have a small case study on the importance of testing the world readiness of a brand name as early as possible. Granted, most upstart companies don’t have the time or money to hire international lawyers to go out and see if their brand names are available in every market. That said, an hour or two of web searching can go a long way towards avoiding conflicts in the major markets. At the very least, you should see if your domain name is available under select country codes: fr, de, cn, au, ca, etc.

And I’m not trying to pick on Kobo. This is a very common issue. Sometimes you just have to make the best of things. For example, if you visit, you might think you’re going to the global auto maker’s home page. But you’re not. And Nissan seems to be doing just fine without the coveted .com domain.

Kobo (the ereader) owns both and but is using as its primary address. What I suspect happened is that when Kobo decided to go global it realized that “kobo” country code domains were already taken in many markets, so it fell back on kobobooks.

I did a quick search and found that the company owns,, (and probably quite a few more). The web pages don’t exist yet but, if Kobo is successful, they will soon. So that’s the good news. Kobo Books has a path for online global expansion.

And as for the KOBO web design firm, I’d be thinking about how best to monetize all this newfound web traffic.

PS: Perhaps as the world becomes more mobile, more app-oriented, this whole domain issue will become less important. Registrars certainly don’t want to see this happen but there are many frustrated marketing execs who would love to not have to worry about acquiring domains.