Is your domain still stuck in the .com age?
We tend to regard the internet as the ultimate international technology. However, not all international users have had an easy time navigating the web in the past. Thanks to internationalized domain names (IDNs), this is about to change.
When the Domain Naming System (DNS) was first developed, it was configured to work with Latin ASCII characters only. This limited domain names and URLs to the use of characters of the Latin alphabet from a-z and numerical characters 0 – 9, as well as the hyphen (-). While this obviously posed no problem for English-speaking users, it meant a limited accessibility of online services for speakers of languages with different writing systems, such as Arabic, Chinese or Cyrillic.
In 2003, the Internet Engineering Task Force set out to alleviate this problem and released guidelines for the implementation of internationalized domain names. Their mechanism allows the use of non-standard characters by converting, for example Cyrillic characters, into ASCII labels, making them compatible with the DNS.
A diamond in the rough: the story of .tv
Domain names are no longer just web addresses but have become valuable commodities. The Polynesian island of Tuvalu experienced this development first-hand. Little did they realise how profitable their country code top-level domain would prove, when they were assigned the country code .tv in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 1998 that they were approached by a Canadian entrepreneur, keen to market and sell the popular suffix.
The Tuvalu government eventually reached an agreement with the Californian company IdeaLab. In 2002, Verisign bought the .tv enterprise for $45 million and their contract with the Tuvalu government has recently been extended until 2021. Some of the top URLs of the .tv domain, for example business.tv, were auctioned for over $ 100 000. For the economically weak nation of Tuvalu, this “export” has been an unexpected blessing, which enabled the island to invest in their infrastructure and educational system. As this example shows, a good domain name is often worth a fortune.
Go global – go local
Over 70% of internet users are not native speakers of English – a percentage which is due to rise significantly as an increasing number of linguistic communities gain access to the internet. Considering 22.7% of all users are speakers of Chinese, it seems common sense that URLs for websites targeting Chinese audiences should be in Chinese characters. Eager to appeal to this growing market, many multinational businesses are trying to cater for the linguistic needs of the Chinese consumer, for example amazon: http://www.z.cn/
It is important to abandon the misconception that non-English web users are a minority, as they are indeed by far the majority (see our blog post about online language markets). IDNs will make the internet more accessible to a large number of internet users. At the same time, they provide new chances for businesses to increase the reach of their online presence. Localizing your website’s URL for the specific markets you wish to target will help you persist on a global market. You would like to invest in your brand’s future online and secure relevant IDNs? Get started soon – the race for the most popular international domain names is already under way.