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Poor IDNs. The Media Will Never Understand.

Recent coverage of internationalized domain names was erroneous.

They sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Or so the headlines read.

Last week I mentioned an article in The London Times about the introduction of domain names with non-Roman characters. As I noted, the article was completely wrong. It said that non-Roman characters will be allowed for the first time “to the left of the dot”, i.e. the second level domain name. Tell that to the people who’ve already registered millions of such names.

In truth, non-Roman characters will be allowed for the first time at the top level — the right of the dot. The key source in the article was an intellectual property owner. Apparently the author didn’t talk to ICANN.

But it doesn’t really matter what the truth is, because everyone has read the erroneous article and jumped on the bandwagon. Like the hundreds of comments on this article at Mashable, which basically referred to the Times article and gave an example of how PayPal users could be spoofed, again based on the second level domain name. It added this tidbit:

Pretty scary, no? As of right now, ICANN hasn’t instituted any policies of trying to protect these kinds of situations, meaning it might be that much more difficult for even normally cautious users to avoid being scammed.

In truth, ICANN has been working on these sorts of issues for years. For example, you can’t mix scripts from different character sets, which was a popular way to make IDNs look like roman-language domains when they first became available.

I’ve seen a number of tweets lamenting the same fear over IDNs.

It’s true that brand owners now have more TLDs for which they need to protect their brands. But other than that, the Times story — and the echo chamber — missed the story.

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Reader Interactions


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  1. Gary

    Everyone else take notice… this is how you do it. You investigate and you report.

    How refreshingly different from the scores of lazy bloggers who simply picked up the mis-informed sky is falling article(s), plagiarized it and called it their own – all in the name of pumping the next article out the door as quickly as possible.

    Nice job Andrew.

  2. Jose Augusto

    ICANN has just replied:

    As opposed to just making comments about ICANN and what we do or do not do – I relally wish you would have called or emailed and asked.

    You say: As of right now, ICANN hasn’t instituted any policies of trying to protect these kinds of situations, meaning it might be that much more difficult for even normally cautious users to avoid being scammed.

    This is wrong. The rule for mixing scripts was put in place years ago and as such the type of example you are using is no longer a problem and has not been for a long time……

    If you are interested in a review of what are the past problems, how have they been solved and what do we need to do looking forward, please call.

    Tina Dam
    Sr. Director, IDNs

  3. Aaron

    Thanks for pointing out these errors. It is amazing that many still don’t realize that IDN.com domains are currently being regged.

  4. Constantine Roussos (.music)

    Great piece Andrew,

    It is amazing how little research all these bloggers do when it comes to stories. The mashable story was quite unacceptable. Coming from the #1 most visited tech blog in the world (yup it surpassed Techcrunch), it is quite worrisome. Millions read these articles.

    All this bad press is a shame and unacceptable. Happy new year by the way.

    Constantine Roussos

  5. Tina Dam

    Hi Andrew, thanks for keeping the record straight!

    It’s very nice to see and very helpful for the entire community as we need to keep the IDN information correct to help the further uptake of these domains.


  6. Sammy Ashouri

    Honestly, I was going to post a message regarding other domain bloggers in the industry just tossing out articles for the sake of articles and misinforming people and how bad it was, but I decided not to (not DNW) just because I hate people misinforming others, and when they’re told they are wrong, they still don’t do anything.

    Andrew, just wanted to give you a +1 on the situation. Was going to post about it myself, but I’ve been lacking in the blogging department due to a lot of other stuff going on.

    Again, thumbs up for actually providing people information for the sake of informing them and knowing your content well enough to do it correctly.


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