You might think after I recommended last time that search marketers use local domains, that this post is a follow-on and that the market reaction is such that everyone has dashed out and started buying domains? In fact, not so. The main mover is ICANN announcing that it would finally allow domain names to be registered using local characters rather than the Latin characters to which we English speakers are so accustomed.
Your first step is to learn the term “Internationalized Domain Names” or “IDN” as that has rapidly taken off as the new jargon and that also means that we now have the horrendous “IDN ccTLD” which has to rate as the worst web jargon on record! ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers which runs the IP addresses and domain names we all known and love, is a vital player in this new domains gold rush.
Pandora’s domain name box opens
November 16th was the key date for the management of the web. That was the day that ICANN opened the Domain Name Fast Track Process process after some 10 years of development of the system to support IDN domains. This allows registrars of IDN domain names using other character sets to register to operate domain names using non-Latin characters. These include:
- Simplified Chinese for Mandarin and other dialects
- Traditional Chinese for Cantonese
- Cyrillic for Russian
- Arabic for Arabic, Farsi, Urdu
- Devanagari for Hindi
- Hangeul for Korean
However, there is also an impact on Latin-character languages—such as Swedish—because they often have characters that are unusual and difficult to represent in domain names because they are not part of the ASCII set of characters.
Russia was expected to be one of the first to jump into the new world of domains and had long planned it’s it’s .РФ domain name (or Latin “.rf” standing for Russian Federation). Russian Minister of Communications Igor Shchegolev said, “Russia is among the leaders of the world internet community. The use of Russian language domain names will become a new and significant phase in the development of the Russian internet segment.”
In the event, Egypt appears to be the very first country to take credit for a fully-fledged domain name with .مصر (or Latin “.masr” meaning “Egypt”). A great many others will follow ranging throughout Africa, the Middle East, Far East and Eastern Europe.
What does this really mean?
What this will ultimately mean is that any word or meaning can be represented in its original character set in any language. It doesn’t mean that only domain names with a funny ending will exist. Another possibility is a dot com with the unique characters of a particular language in the domain name itself rather than the extension. Indeed, Verisign is already offering services to buy dot com domain names with characters other than Latin in the name.
In turn, what that means is that many people who previously may have been discouraged from using the web will now be encouraged. Governments across the world are showing great enthusiasm and spirit in chasing recognition—as well as registration—through this new system. The end result of that is that we must expect there to be an acceleration of the rate of interest in the web in the “east” in the broadest sense of the word. The web is definitely in the process of going global if it wasn’t before.
Trademark owners open your wallets
Defending trademarks has often been more easily done by buying up domain names than by spending millions of dollars chasing abusers who hide in obscure parts of the world. Introduction of the new IDN ccTLDs changes nothing—other than it now increases the number of domain names a global player needs to acquire to protect their brand. Registries will generally be operating sunrise periods for trademark owners provided they meet specific requirements—principally that the trademark should already be owned and recognized by that country. Unfortunately, it is also to be expected that the prices to register will be higher than most are accustomed to paying for domains, so this development is likely to be expensive—at least in the early years.
Mixing Latin and local bumps up the numbers
The issue which probably hasn’t crossed the minds of too many trademark and domain name owners just yet is that the new domains may contain both Latin and local characters. So, for instance, it would be possible to register SearchEngineLand.РФ to run alongside the existing dot com. In other words, all of your trademarks could be registered by you—or someone else—using the new IDN style domains but in your own language, and subject to the rules of the particular registrar!
About those new funny looking characters…
Anyone who’s been responsible for registering their trademarks in different regions of the world will have come across the term “transliteration.” This is not the same as translation but basically means swapping characters to represent as closely as possible the original source language. Taxi in Russian, for example, is effectively written in Russian characters which equate to “taksi” in Latin characters. That’s transliteration from Russian to English.
Unfortunately, since there are not always exact equivalents, multiple different spellings can apply. Some alphabets are much larger than English, further increasing the range of possibilities. As soon as you add mixed Latin and local character plus all the potential different local spellings together plus longer alphabets—well, basically you have a money problem.
Trademark owners, domain name managers, intellectual property folks, marketers—in fact everyone involved with protecting your great name globally—better put in a request for more budget now. Lots more budget.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.