While country codes in domain name extensions have become commonplace, domain names themselves have historically been written in the Latin alphabet whether .ca or .cn was tacked on as a domain extension. The introduction of internationalized domain names or IDNs are changing this.
IDNs designate domain names that are written in local languages or scripts, instead of ASCII. They may refer to a French domain name that contains the accent aigu or a Japanese domain name written in Kanji.
Under the new IDN system, a local user would see the internationalized domain name. An English browser would see the IDN converted to an ASCII-character display, since their English browser is not configured to display other scripts.
Advantages of using an IDN
For businesses, the ability to display their website to a target audience in the local language makes it much easier to broaden brand awareness and increase conversions. Businesses that have translated their website into other languages and purchased an IDN will be better able to connect with consumers in that country. Consumers can be motivated to purchase because they can comfortably read about the products, brand, or services advertised in their native language.
For users, the opportunity to use the internet by reading and typing in their native language is invaluable. Individuals who speak Russian, Arabic, Greek, Hindi, Chinese, Korean, Hebrew, and other languages will now be able explore the internet with the same confidence and level of understanding as native English speakers. This can have a huge impact on education, communication, and information delivery across rural areas and large cities alike, as ICANN notes.
The history behind IDNs
Since the early days of the internet, website domain names have been limited to English letters and numerals only. This meant that non-native English speakers would need to use the Latin alphabet to spell out their domain name. In 2009, however, the governing body in charge of regulating domain names, the ICANN, changed the rules to allow for domain names to contain international scripts.
At present, ICANN is rolling out IDNs using a fast-track system as they work to develop a permanent policy. Countries can apply for IDNs in any language that is deemed an official language of that country. If you want to obtain an IDN for your existing business website, start the process now to ensure that you get the name you want in the geographic areas you serve.