Domain Name Registration - An Overview of Internationalized Domain Names
Shortly after its very inception, the Internet started to become a global community and while in the early 2000s, the majority of websites were in English, this has all changed. Today, the majority of Internet content is in other languages, with the English language only accounting for around 40% of web content. As more and more people around the world get connected, this number is constantly dropping, making it more important than ever for the web to improve its support for multilingual usage. Internationalized domain names (IDNs) present a long-awaited feature of the Internet which enables people to register web addresses in languages other than English.
Billions of people around the world do not use English as their primary language and many don't even understand it at all. The standard Latin alphabet has long been used as a workaround for limitations imposed by ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) which previously made international domain names impossible. Nowadays, it is possible to register a web address in a variety of completely different writing systems, such as Russian, Hebrew, Arabic or Chinese.
IDNs are not only for those who use different alphabets. Most languages, other than English, which use the Latin alphabet, use diacritics extensively. For example, say you run an online bookstore for the Polish market and you want to register the address "books.pl," but in Polish. The Polish word for "books" is "książek." Without registering an IDN, it would be necessary to register the domain "ksiazek" or even a different transliteration altogether into standard Latin letters. With IDNs now being a possibility, you can register such an address so that it reads naturally to Polish speakers and is easier for them to type in without having to use the transliteration workaround.
IDNs also mean that more domains will be available. Since many .com addresses are already taken, businesses and sites targeted towards users of specific languages will have more freedom when it comes to registering their domain name. Although IDNs are still a very new concept, it is already possible to register them and it's highly likely that they will truly start to take off over the next few years.
Although many of them have been addressed, there are also concerns about IDNs. For example, it's easier for unscrupulous webmasters to lure unwitting surfers to bad websites by faking website names. In such cases, there can be multiple web addresses looking exactly the same, even though there may actually be a letter or two which is different. For example, the Russian letter 'e' looks identical to the English letter 'e,' although it is actually a different symbol as far as character encoding goes. This means that it can lead to a totally different domain. While it might look the same, it could also be a phishing attempt.