Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The Guardian is reporting that Nominet may introduce IDN on UK domains:

Nominet, the not for profit company that registers internet addresses ending in .uk, yesterday launched a three-month public consultation on plans to introduce so-called international domain names (IDN).

[…]That would clear the way for websites with addresses which include accents, as in www.café, or use entirely different alphabets such as Greek or Arabic.

[..] “We are asking everyone in the UK what they want,” explained Nominet’s head of regulation Edward Phillips. “We have Welsh and Gaelic, which require some additional characters, but when you start looking across the country you realise there is a huge range of languages spoken here. Should we open it up to absolutely everybody?

It’s certainly an interesting idea, and one that I’d support. Internet Explorer is the only maintream browser that doesn’t support IDN yet and that is coming in IE7 due later this year, so by the time these domains become available to register I imagine that a significant number of people will be able to visit these sites. The details of the consultation are here.
What’s perhaps most interesting about this story is that it was in the main section of the printed edition of The Guardian today. It even included an inset box (reproduced at the bottom of the article) going in to some detail about what IDN is and mentioning Firefox.


  1. As far as I know this has been pretty much a failure in Germany, where DENIC implemented this a while ago. Mainly to cater for umlauts and other German characters.
    What happened?
    Those companies who already had the domains with the workarounds (e.g. just registered the domain with the umlaut as well.
    Especially with IE not supporting it the domains are pretty much useless so far and hardly anyone uses them.
    Not to forget the problems with the similar characters (can’t remember the details, but didn’t someone set up a fake paypal site, using a Russian character that looks incredibly similar to an a?).
    I don’t really see this going anywhere.

  2. According to the BBC half of the British population don’t have internet access, but surely making them use AltGR+whatever will just put them off further.
    As for the security issue I have to agree with you, I can imagine Unicode characters going in to replicate other characters and the occasional páypá .

  3. computerjoe: I think the aim was mostly to allow domains like 台網中心.tw in the UK registry, rather than make the domain name system overly complex. Sure, someone could register café but they’d find that lots of people wouldn’t know how to get the é character and so wouldn’t visit the site.
    Armin: There are efforts to stop phishing scams like those you describe, both at the browser and registry sides. If you hover over the domain I just linked to in Firefox, you’ll notice that the domain displayed starts with ‘xn--…’ to show that it’s an internationalised domain.
    (This, by the way, is why I like Unicode)

  4. You know, I wrote something else but it didn’t get on, so I’ll redo it.
    pаypа . The a’s are cyrillic, can you tell?