From Russian to Arabic to Chinese, new TLDs have arrived

Cyrillic IDNs

This screen is from a website advertising two new top level domains in Cyrillic.

Here are the two domains and what they represent:

.САЙТ (Website)

.ОНЛАЙН (Online)

Two other domains that were recently approved by ICANN were in Arabic and Chinese:

شبكة  (Network)
游戏  (Game)

This is just the tip of iceberg. Many more non-Latin domains are in the pipeline for approval, the bulk of them being Chinese domains. Amazon and Google are among the many prospective applicants.

Even the Angry Birds creators are getting into the game. Here are the two domains they’ve procured:

.在线 (Online)
.中文网 (Chinese site)

Chinese language TLDs

From this article about the two new Chinese domains acquired by the Angry Birds duo:

…the entrepreneurs see these two new ones as common sense options, as many people already use the terms “___online” and “___Chinese site” when searching for things on the web. For example, a Chinese person might typically search for “Nokia Chinese site” (in Chinese, of course), so it’d make sense for Nokia to buy that new URL. “It’s bringing your brand closer to the search term,” Simon points out.

It’s also argued that the new ‘.online’ and ‘.Chinese site’ options are easier for China’s mobile netizens to write on their smartphones, sticking 100 percent to their Chinese keyboard rather than switching to English to type out, say, “”. China currently has 460 million mobile web users.

According to the ICANN blog post Dawn of a New Internet Era:

It’s no accident that the first tranche of gTLDs to be delegated are all non-Latin strings – or as we officially refer to them, Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) gTLDs. In addition to facilitating competition and innovation through the New gTLD Program, one of ICANN’s key aims is to help create a globally inclusive Internet, regardless of language or region. For this reason, we elected to prioritize the processing of IDN applications and their delegation.

Will these new domains succeed?

I think some of them will, and hugely so. I also think it will take time. And perhaps a few new brand names that lead with these domains instead of using them as fallback domains.

Despite the many criticisms of the gTLD program, as I noted earlier, the Internet needs to open the door for URLs in other scripts.

That door is now open.




The next Internet revolution will not be in English

taking .com global  IDNs

Imagine if, every time you wanted to visit a website, you were expected to type in letters from a foreign language, or worse, an entirely foreign script, such as Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese.

For more than a billion people, this is how they experience the Internet today.

The Internet was designed to be global, but it was not designed to be multilingual. For decades, this limitation was most evident in website and email addresses, which permitted only a small set of Latin characters.

Fortunately, over the past decade much work has been done to allow website addresses to support non-Latin characters, referred to as internationalized domain names (IDNs). More than 30 countries, ranging from Saudi Arabia to South Korea, now support country code domains in their native scripts.

For example, Russians no longer have to register a domain using the Latin (.ru) country code and may instead use the Cyrillic equivalent .Рф. And evidence of these new URLs are becoming more visible. Kremlin’s new Cyrillic URL is http://президент.рф. The leading Russian search engine Yandex can be located at http://Яндекс.рф, and the address of Russia’s largest mobile carrier is http://МТС.рф. These addresses are fully functional, and modern web browsers support them.

But what about a local-language equivalent of .com?

ICANN, the organization that manages the domain name system, is in the process of allowing not only local-language equivalents of .com, but an entirely new wave of top-level domains known as generic TLDs (gTLDs). More than a thousand applications have already been filed for these new domains, ranging from .apple (guess who applied for this one) to .book (yes, Amazon is hot for this domain, among others).

Much controversy has erupted over the value or need for all these new domains. Many people claim that .com is good enough, like Esther Dyson, who says “You are creating a business, like derivatives on Wall Street, that has no value.”

Dyson, I would assume, is speaking more about the introduction of Latin-based domain names, and I  understand where she’s coming from. But her sentiment implies that the Internet naming system is largely fine as is.

She is wrong.

For more than a billion web users, .com has always been a foreign address.

Local-language domain names do have value. And they will improve the usability of the Internet.

VeriSign, the registry that manages .com, is now pursuing a Russian transliteration: .ком, as well as variations in Chinese and Hindi.

And a number of companies have applied for local-language equivalents of their brand names. Amazon has applied for the Japanese version of its name (アマゾン), and Philips has applied for the Chinese-language equivalent of its name (飞利浦). Both names were recently approved by ICANN and could be functional by the end of this year. You can peruse all gTLD applications and their status here.

The fact is, IDNs are here, and many more are coming. And the regions these IDNs span constitute more than 2.5 billion people, most of whom do not speak English as a native language. The regions also represent where most of the growth in Internet usage will occur over the next decade.

We’re inching closer to a linguistically local Internet, in which people no longer have to leave their native languages to get where they want to go.

This is a positive development for making the Internet truly accessible to the world.

Don’t blame phishing on IDNs

I received a friendly email from Twitter awhile back.

It was fake.

I (stupidly) clicked on the link and was greeted with a login page that looked very much like Twitter’s real login page at the time.

Here’s a screen grab (note the bogus address):

I mention this now because I keep coming across stories about how internationalized domain names (IDNs) may be inherently dangerous. That if you start allowing all these additional characters in domain names you’re going to see many more instances of phishing (or IDN spoofing or homograph attacks).

I don’t dispute that these attacks are happening and will continue to happen.

I just want to make the simple point that phishing has been alive and well with plain old ASCII characters.

Maybe IDNs, as they become more popular, will lead to more problems. They probably will. But we’ve had our fair share of phishing attacks with Latin-based characters and I don’t ever read an article or blog post suggesting we eliminate these characters from the DNS.

Risk is, unfortunately, a sad fact of life on this crazy world wide web. And, yes, there are  IDN scenarios (like mixed scripts) in which IDNs could present the “bad guys” with exciting possibilities. So far, these scenarios have been limited reasonably well.

The key is to minimize risks while still allowing people around the world to interact in their native languages.

IDNs, warts and all, are important to the future of the Internet.


France to offer support for actual French domain names

The French domain name registry AFNIC has published a PDF explaining why it will soon support internationalized domain names (IDNs). According to AFNIC:

As of July 3, 2012, it will be possible for anyone to register domain names under the .fr, .yt, .pm, .wf, .tf, and .re TLDs with new characters such as é, ç or the German Eszett.

Consider the website for France’s presidential palace. Right now, you would get to this website via, rather than its actual name www.Élysé

Now I realize there is a lot of extra money to be made by registrars if every company, government agency, and organization registers a bunch of extra domain names, differentiated only by an accented character or two. And some might argue that IDNs amount to little more than a boondoggle for registrars.

I would argue that the new (corporate) generic TLDs are the real boondoggle. I mean, does the Internet really need .honda or .disney top level domains?

IDNs support languages, plain and simple. Which has been a very long time coming. And which is ultimately about showing respect not just for languages but the people who use them.