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What do I think of Emoji domains? Not much.

I don’t see much potential for emoji domains in .ws.

Over the weekend I wrote about ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) giving a 👎 to the use of emoticons in domain names.

This inevitably led to some questions about what I think about emoji domain names.

From an investment standpoint, I think you’re probably wasting your money on them. I know that the handful of people who have already invested in these domain names will disagree. And I’m certainly willing to listen to the other side. But I think there’s a short list of emoji domains that could have value, and only in limited circumstances.

Here’s why I think emoji domains have limited upside:

.Ws

Right now, I believe you can only register emoji domain names in .ws. .Ws sucks. I say this as someone who was thrilled to get some one-word domains in .ws a decade ago and have even stubbornly held onto one (support.ws).

You can’t expect emoji domains to have much value as long as they are limited to an obscure country code.

Domain investors often say a problem with new TLDs in marketing is that people have to figure out and remember what’s right of the dot. With emoji.ws domains, people are grappling with something unusual on both sides of the dot.

Universal Acceptance

This is a huge issue. Much like some IDNs don’t play well with all software systems, neither do emoji domains.

It’s exacerbated by additional issues that the SSAC outlines in its report.

Why would you want a domain name that renders differently on different devices and doesn’t work on all devices? The benefits of having a graphical domain name have got to be huge to outweigh this.

More importantly, would you register a domain name that can’t be easily typed unless someone is on a mobile device? I understand mobile-first, but mobile only?

Limited understanding

Call me an old guy who doesn’t get it. But I’ve got to think the percentage of the population that understands the nuance of various emoji is limited in age and number.

The whole point of domain names is to make it easier to remember a web address compared to a random string of numbers. Other than a select handful of emoji, are they really easier to remember?

Search

If you believe in some power from descriptive domain names and domain name text in search, then you realize emoji domains lack this.

Bottom line

So for now, I think emoji domains have very limited value. Sure, Coca-Cola used them a while back in a campaign in Puerto Rico. I can see some other cute marketing gimmicks and benefits from having a colorful, graphical URL. But if you’re investing money in currently unregistered emoji domains in .ws, I think you’re flushing it down the drain.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

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  1. Tex says

    Yes, you’re old. You probably feel the same way about SnapChat. “Why do we need Snap when we have text messaging, they vanish and I can’t figure out how the app even works?!” Different strokes for different folks.

    • AJ says

      Yup.. Snapchat’s growth has recently flatlined which takes us back to Andrew’s point – why would you want to limit your audience so significantly?

      And, from limited experience with emoji’s, different apps seem to have different emoticons (half of which I don’t even know what they represent)

  2. Jon Roig says

    You’re an old guy who doesn’t get it!

    Thank you for covering this. Nice to have a little controversy in the domain world.

    Emoji Domains are the first new thing to come to domains in quite awhile.

    Given that we launched https://i❤️.ws just over six months ago, you’ve gotta give us some credit to getting to the point where ICANN feels like they have to comment. We hope this is the beginning of a conversation. We’ll we able to address their concerns.

    Our “official” response lives here: http://i❤️icann.ws. Couldn’t resist

    Do an experiment. As you wander around today, count the number of emoji you see. Take note of where you see them. Do they make sense?

    You might be suprised.

    Do a search for “Emoji Domains” – they actually show up really well in search, distinguishing them from the non-emoji competition.

  3. Steve says

    I love emoji(s) but not as domain names.
    Andrew, I agree. Some value as marketing gimmicks.

  4. Rob says

    “Emojis” are used by over 90% of the Online Population. Yet, the majority of that same population (consumers + companies alike) still don’t realize they can Register and Use “Emoji Domains”.

    Hence, “Emoji Domains” are still in their Infancy stage and I personally see that as a potential Upside for future Growth and Use.

    • cftxp says

      Exactly, and I mean how do you forget that domain names can be used to redirect to a different website? A bunch of the comments here seem to imagine the emoji domain name to be the actual URL for the website when it’s usually redirected to the main website as an easier, more accessible way to access its content via mobile device. The point of a short, accessible domain name is to make it easier for usability to begin with.

      I agree, emoji domain names are simply here to stay.

  5. Eric Lyon says

    Looks like I may need to research this market a bit more based on some of the success stories in the comments. At the moment I’m not really seeing the value due to the complexity of them. However, they are new and it might at least be a trend. Right now I just see them as novelty/nostalgic purchases.

  6. Andrew Allemann says

    Another thing I just thought of: because of U.S. ADA/accessibility requirements, U.S. companies will have to be careful about using these domain names that cannot be easily deciphered by the visually impaired. Hence, their relegation to marketing gimmicks.

    • cftxp says

      This may not necessarily be a fix for the particular issue you have in mind, but here’s one way to make emojis more accessible in HTML.

      https://tink.uk/accessible-emoji/

      But emojis are relatively new, surely there are ways that the powers that be will find in order to make such addresses more accessible. At the same time, emoji domain names are simply used as redirects rather than the permanent addresses and, despite the findings in the report, are one very good way to make content more accessible to an international audience as they use the internationalized domain name (IDN) “xn” prefix in unicode. At the same time, when it comes to accessibility, as a multiply disabled person myself, I can attest to the accessibility of emojis in expressing my thoughts. As an autistic person, I often have trouble expressing actually myself in text, Facebook, Twitter, etc. but emojis make my life much easier in those realms.

  7. Rob says

    The following Brands use Emoji Domains as part of their Marketing Strategy …

    Honda
    Ray-Ban
    MGM Grand
    Sony Pictures
    Turkish Airlines
    Norwegian Airlines
    … and more

  8. Joseph Peterson says

    Scattered usage does not imply ROI for domainers.

    Buyers are usually unwilling to spend much for any domain unless it’s CRITICAL to their business. Emoji domains may be clever or cool, but they will never be critical.

    And the supply is too great relative to the demand. There will always be alternatives – emoji and non-emoji.

    At best, a minority of emoji domain owners will see a net profit. But on average this will be a losing investment strategy, I think.

    Creative usage is welcome. But there are more promising, less risky areas to invest for domainers.

  9. Sonshi.com says

    For those who remember the good old internet days of hunting for the best dot com, emoji domains are it nowadays. I’ve never been so exited. Emojis convey so much — a picture is worth a thousand words. Nobody can type out an entire web page address either, that’s why it’s a simple link you simply click on. Try it: http://www.☮️.com

  10. John Harrison says

    Hi Andrew,

    I have some thoughts on this:

    .Ws

    I think everyone would agree emoji in .com would be more valuable right now. You’re right, you wouldn’t have to educate the .ws part of the domain. But, it seems very unlikely in the short term at least that .com emoji will be available and so looking to the most viable alternative its .ws.

    Coca-Cola kind of set the precedent with their adoption of that cctld. Right now .ws is getting a good lead at becoming the associated ending for an emoji domain. The longer it stays that way, the stronger .ws will get.

    Also, remember we’re not educating people about emoji. Nobody has forced emoji on the world. The people have spoken and uptake has been natural, boosted by the immense popularity of the iPhone.

    I think domainers have a bad view of .ws because, like you say, your excellent single word .ws probably have had few inquiries. There was a crazy time during the peak Chinese investor frenzy when things got very publicly nasty and people lost a lot of money. But, there were always alternatives to domains like support.ws. With the new gtlds, there are a whole lot more alternatives. Whether you think they are good investments or not doesn’t matter because they at least exist.

    An un-savvy business owner can always tell the .com registrant that he wouldn’t pay $x,xxx,xxx for the domain because he can go and register it in .ws for $30. But, there are no other viable alternatives for emoji domains so it’s either .ws or nothing. I think the benefits of an emoji domain outweigh the trouble of educating about .ws.

    There’s a good list of companies using both single and combination emoji here
    http://emojiname.com/emoji-domains-by-the-numbers/

    Universal Acceptance

    This is a huge issue but it is changing.

    Google just spent 18 months re-designing the android ‘gum drop’ emoji. The new emoji look much more like the ios versions and within their own set of emoji they unified the visual style. The design of emoji over the years is converging.

    https://medium.com/google-design/redesigning-android-emoji-cb22e3b51cc6

    Compatibility and integration is happening.

    Microsoft has fixed the autocorrection that changed the smiley face emoticon to a ‘J’. It has also added 770 new emoji in an update including interracial couples which was the first by a major vendor. Twitter and Android are already able to use the new 2017 emoji a month earlier than predicted. People successfully campaigned for the Paella emoji to be more authentically represented- Apple actually changed the design of the emoji to appease the campaigners.

    Emoji has a social and inclusive element to it and I think this leads to more integration and better compatibility in the near future because the lead is coming from the public not from business.

    Platforms may not be so willing to play well with other forms of IDNs but because emoji are a universal language there’s more of a reason to.
    Reports suggest that you can achieve an 85% increase in engagement by simply adding emoji to push notifications. Marketers will want to use emoji and platforms will want to attract marketing budgets.

    https://www.leanplum.com/blog/emoji-push-notifications-press-release/

    The benefits of graphical domain names are huge. To start with they are going to stand out which is half the battle in getting attention. There will be a limited window of opportunity for business who adopt emoji domains early. They may even achieve recognition and press purely because they use one not necessarily how they use one.

    They are also much easier to remember due to the phenomenon called the ‘picture superiority effect’ which says a picture needs a single coding process for memory storage and retrieval while text needs a dual coding process. Pictures are stored and recalled more easily.

    Lastly, emoji domains aren’t supposed to replace regular domains. They can, however, act as an addition to a marketer’s toolbox. Just as apps didn’t kill websites, chatbots won’t kill apps and voice won’t kill everything. They will all work in harmony as part of an omni-channel strategy. But, if mobile internet use has overtaken desktop in developed countries and is the primary device in developing countries a strategy that includes emoji as natural, native communication tools is a sensible one.

    Limited understanding

    More people use emoji than you may think.

    http://www.adweek.com/digital/report-92-of-online-consumers-use-emoji-infographic/

    My 50-something year old accountant sends me emails with emoji. Did we think older generations would use Facebook? Did we see an immediate business case for Snapchat?

    There are obvious business cases for the watch emoji or the camera emoji. But maybe the nuanced ones are better because they screen their customers first. If you don’t get the meaning of a certain emoji combination maybe the product isn’t for you.

    Search

    Emoji domains don’t lack this. Type the watch emoji into google.

    When I do it I get images of actual watches. I get an ad for Apple Watch. I get GQ’s home for articles about watches. I get organic results for Omega, Rolex, Huawei and Kronaby. The important thing is that there is no sight of the emoji in the text or on the results page. I can’t find extensive use on the pages I’m directed to either.

    So, my guess is that Google must be giving some relevance to the keyword ‘watch’ when the emoji is searched for. It’s not the same across all emoji though. The pizza emoji returns mainly images of the pizza emoji and articles about the pizza emoji. But, it also returns a YouTube video which uses the pizza emoji as its title in second place.

    If you concede that search algorithms get more nuanced and return better results in the next 5 years you must leave some imaginative room for the improvement of emoji based search results.

    Interestingly, if you add ‘near me’ to the pizza emoji you get better results.

    https://www.searchenginejournal.com/emoji-seo/196411/

    This is making me hungry.

    • Andrew Allemann says

      Thanks John for your excellent response. You make some good points. If I were to summarize my thoughts, it would be that this is a small niche opportunity. People make money on niches all of the time, but I’ve already started to see people register horrible emoji domain names that are probably wasting their money.

      Another interesting thing will be if more ccTLDs begin offering emoji domain names. I wonder what that will do to the value of emoji.ws domains.

      • John Harrison says

        It is certainly niche and I too have seen some very bad ones registered when I can plenty of better ones still unregistered.

        It will be interesting to see if other cctlds offer emoji.

    • matan says

      Thank you John for the excellent answers.
      Andrew, thanks to domain veterans and people like you i was able to be one of the first in the world with emoji domains 3 years ago. now i cannot find any dot com good domain that include vr,ar,drones.iot,spinners etc .
      i found out about it few months before coca cola did their campaign. and was registering 200 of them few days after their campaign.
      as you see, some serious domain investors (that you probably met face to face) like Page and Mike and Vito and Rob and many more are early adopters in this field and understand its value. dont worry, you dont have to be the game.
      if you are a risk taker, like me 6.5 years ago with bitcoin, my friendly suggestion for you is to register one emoji domain that you personally think is value. you can also avoid skin colors or gender and choose an item, like a truck, car, jeans or food emoji to register.
      thank you for covering the ICANN security thing and giving all the emoji investors a platform to speak at.
      if you have any question or thought you are welcome to go into my website http://www.emojiurl.com and leave there a message.

      Thanks again
      Matan Israeli
      Emojiurl

  11. hampton howe says

    In stocks we have the wall of worry which allows stocks to grow against a negative mindset, which means if fundamentals stay strong then theres lots of buyers not in the market , who finally come in, at higher prices.

    I am investing in emojis, i do think over the next 6-12 months id like to see improvements in. Im currently buying and selling to/from investors and collectors, and keeping some for the end users. – at market prices which take in all the faults.

    education and awareness – acheiveable

    usability across platforms – doable

    but i like the fact that my inbox, facebook and twitter feed show me increasing demand, with a limited supply, maybe only 2600 one characters, less 1300-1500 futures, genders and skin tones.

    Comapre that to new tlds where everything works, but maybe demand hasnt been what was projected, so you just have almost unlimited added supply without demand, and little marketing -except for the GEOs, china demand and .CLUB

    laslty, without .com and the other g’s for now .ws becomes the accepted right of the dot – so good enough for me for now. – and at the current prices these are prices for personal or collector use, payback in one year.

    but Thanks for your take Andrew, you and i have been around since .ws landrushes 1,2,3, .pro. .travel, and the other “new: things. I tried to take emoji apart with common sense, but still went to about 1% of my portfolio because of:

    – emojis are IDNs, but IDN’s on hundred of millions of cellphones, more and more desktops with windows 10 virtal keyboard and android now depending on your carrier so they are using tested real ICANN root zone processing

    – millennials really like emoji, not just new gtld hype like, but really like and use

    – marketing is visual, best use now is cool factor for influencers, and the “hey lookie here” that advertisers pay billions for

    – as a shortener a 1 character emoji with .ws is 4 taps, add one to switch to emoji keyboard – wouldnt it be great if we took customers back to the browser.

    As to rendering across platforms, should improve, but is more like the difference between fonts that anything

    Page Howe

      • cftxp says

        Actually, I just registered http://i❤️myself.cf to test this out, and it works so i guess they allow emoji+text, although so far I’ve only registered emoji. I assume this is also the case with the .tk, .ga and .ml (Tokelau, Gabon, and Mali) TLDs. Just go to Freenom.com and you’ll basically be able to test out emoji domain names if you want to do so for free!

        • Page Howe says

          i personally passed on the freenoms, theres no doube we have barriers to overcome with emoji, and i didint want to add another but a potentially unsaleable domain, so im almost all .ws with my emoji. others great for testing though.

          Just too many negative articles online about the freenom ones to spend the time trying to understand, for me, any risk they could claw back is terrible, at least .ws has been going for 20+ years and is available at most registrars, especially the mark monitors and corporate registrars where cleints may want to own some great emoji.

          my experience , there no free lunch…

          Page Howe

          • cftxp says

            I understand your point, I simply use the Freenom domain names for gimmick websites or URL redirection. It also helps that one of these Freenom TLD’s “.cf” are my first and last name initials, so it’s simply a matter of branding for me. However, I have a multitude of the traditional and new domain names that I utilize as the actual addresses for these websites.

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