When the DNS (Domain Name System) first entered into operation in 1983, only the characters in the Latin alphabet were allowed to be used. With this system, although the characters of different alphabets could have a place in the DNS, web browsers and e-mail clients were not supporting such usage. By way of IDN (Internationalized Domain Name), that was first introduced in 2000, characters in non-Latin alphabets began to be available to use. Thereby, domains in almost all languages started to be registered. Until today 4 million IDNs were registered.
Although registered IDNs seem as they are in the browser’s address bar, the way they are registered in the DNS is not the same. For example, geschäft.com which means “job” in German, will seem readable in the address bars of most browsers. However, it is registered on DNS as xn--geschft-9wa.com. Both of these addresses will take you to the same website.
The conversion process between these two forms is called ‘punycode’. Domain names that are converted to punycode always have to start with “xn--”. The remaining part of the domain is determined depending on the proportion of the domain that is ASCII. For instance, when 域名.com that is entirely comprised of Chinese characters converted with punycode, it will be written as xn--eqrt2g.com, which is completely different than its original form. When you write this meaningless address to the browser, you will see that it is converted into its Unicode form, which is 域名.com.
The fixed (xn--) and changing parts of the punycode forms of IDNs have to be 7 characters in total. Therefore, an IDN whose Unicode form is comprised of a single character is in fact made up of seven 7 characters. (Example: é.com -> xn--9ca.com)
As for IDN extensions, they were started to be used in late 2009. Thanks to this change, users can now register domains with extensions that are formed in their own languages. In this way, even Arabic domain extensions that are written from right to left can be used, like امارات. (United Arab Emirates), السعودية. (Saudi Arabia) and مصر. (Egypt) When you register a totally Arabic domain name with such extensions, you see the domain in the order of [extension].[domain name], instead of the usual alignment of [domain name].[extension]. And the address of any page on the website is written from left to right after the domain name. Example: الإنترنت.امارات/index.html
IDN extensions don’t come only in the form of country names. New IDN-compatible gTLDs can also be registered. Extensions like موقع. (“website” in English), شبكة. (“web” in English) and .网站 (“website” in English) are available for registration.
Just like IDN domains, IDN extensions are registered with their punycode forms. When you register a domain name with Russian language country code extension .рф, it is in fact registered as .xn--p1ai, and for موقع. it is registered as .xn--4gbrim.
Another remarkable aspect of IDNs is the following: “emoji” symbols that are usually used in phone messages and have spread widely in a short span of time, can also be registered as domains. Emoji domains can be registered with .ws, .to and .fm extensions. Among them, the most common extension is .ws. Currently, many brands have registered emoji domains and forwarded them to their main domain names. Some even went on to use emoji domains directly as websites, like i❤️tacos.
There are many brands that register emoji domains and forward them to their main domain: a burger joint, Sliderz forward 🍔🍦.ws to sliderz.com; skin care products manufacturer, Bevel forward 💈.ws to getbevel.com; a social network project, Greenapes forward 🌴.ws to greenapes.com; eyeglasses brand, Warby Parker forward 👓.ws to warbyparker.com. You may visit this page for more of such examples.
Among IDNs, there are high-priced domains that have been sold too. Москва.com (Moscow) that was sold in 2012 for 216,000$ and 日本.com (Japan) that was sold in 2009 for 100,000$ are among the highest priced IDN sales until now. Sold in 2009, Gartenmöbel.de and Gartenmoebel.de than mean “garden furniture” was bought on the same day for 300,000€, and are currently being used as furniture sales websites. Other noteworthy IDN sales include Schlüsseldienst.de (“locksmith” in English) that was sold in 2014 for 35,000€ and Gewerbeflächen.de (“lease” in English) that was sold for 16,500€. According to our research, we may say that German-language IDNs with .de extension are more popular than IDNs in other languages. (Source of the sales information: dnjournal.com)
Although IDNs have not created a global effect over the internet world due to user habits and some technical difficulties, equality of opportunity that come with the ability to register domains almost in all languages facilitates the user integration. Let’s see if IDN usage will increase in the future or will it fade away just like some other trends?