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Internationalized Domain Names - Web Browsing in Your Native Language

Many native english speakers take for granted that the Internet is predominately english driven. However, for many, the simple task of typing a web address into their browser isn't done in their native language, but in english. That is all about to change with the ever increasing adoption of Internationalized Domain Names or IDNs as they are referred to.

What are internationalized domain names (IDN)?

Internationalized domain names (IDNs) are domain names or url’s that are displayed in the local language of the Internet user instead of English only.

Originally the domain name system (dns) was not developed to handle the vast majority of characters used in other languages like those used in the Chinese and German languages. The IDN standard was developed to resolve these issues.

Examples of an IDN

If a user in Japan was to type Japanese characters into a web browser that supported IDN, they would see something like this:

Japanese: 名がドメイン.com would be converted to xn--v8jxj3d1dzdz08w.com.

The xn--v8jxj3d1dzdz08w.com version is what would display in an english browser, whereas the Japanese user would see the original Japanese characters.

The same is true for the French language which includes many non-ascii characters.

French: detrèsbonsdomaines.com would be converted to xn--detrsbonsdomaines-vsb.com, which would be displayed in an english browser.

Why would I register an IDN domain?

By registering an IDN domain you are able to reach your target audience in their local language and provide a more comfortable way for them to interface with your company if their native language isn’t English. You also enable your customers / users to navigate your site or address emails to you in their local language.

If I have registered a domain name will I also be the registrant for the IDN version of that domain name for all available languages?

Because of the complexities of foreign languages we are not currently able to register your domain in all available language variations.

A good example of why we are unable to offer this service is an examination of the word “test”. The word test means different things in different languages and in some languages “test” has several meanings for the same word, depending on its usage. Translating a domain into its alternative language equivalent is a subtle process that we are still unable to do automatically for our customers.

Why do I have to select a language when registering an IDN domain?

Internationalized domain names are required by ICANN to be associated with a specific language, called a language tag, so that appropriate language rules can be applied to the domain name, if needed. Language rules are created to prevent the registration of domains that could potentially confuse the end user.

Currently only a few languages have these rules in place, including Chinese and Japanese. Associating a language with a domain name will help keep consistency in the future if other languages develop these rules.

Currently the language tag can only be set at the time of registration.

What languages are supported?

Each registry decides which languages it will support, so language availability may vary based on the domain’s extension. To see which languages are supported, search for the IDN version of your domain name and review the “Language Selection” drop-down for a list of supported languages for that extension.

What is ascii?

American standard code for information interchange - is a numeric code used to represent all the upper and lower-case Latin letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. and is absent of any special format information, like italics or diacritics

What is punycode?

Punycode a simple and efficient ASCII-Compatible Encoding (ACE) designed for use with Internationalized Domain Names.

Want a more technical overview? Check out the Wikipedia article on punycode.