Emojis in Internet Domains? ICANN Might Not Allow It


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Emojis have been flooding digital conversations via text message, social media, and email.  But an advisory committee to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is discouraging another potential use: in top-level domain names.

The visual similarity of emojis and variations across platforms can lead to ambiguity and confusion among internet users looking up websites, the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee said in a May 25 advisory to the board of the nonprofit that manages the domain name system. 

The committee recommended that the board reject applications for domain name extensions—names to the right of the dot—that include emoji.  The committee also said it discourages people from registering emoji domain names to the left of the dot.

ICANN board chair Steve Crocker told Bloomberg BNA May 30 that the board will strongly consider that advice.

The committee “has written a very cogent and readable explanation of the problems that may occur if emojis are used in domain names,” he said. “Their advice will be given strong consideration in the formulation of the next round of top level domain names.”

According to the committee, many emojis are similar to one another and can be indistinguishable in small fonts. Emojis also come in different variations, depending on the device displaying them. 

Variations and ambiguities are acceptable in conversations, the committee said, but not in domain names, which are one of several types of internet “identifiers” that connect computers online.

“The whole point of an identifier is to specify something unambiguously—this thing, as distinct from all other things,” the committee said. 

Due to the increased risk of confusion, users are less likely to reach the websites they are seeking and may instead be tricked into going to a phishing site, the committee said. It also said domain names containing emoji may be incompatible with screen-reading software for visually-impaired users because there is no agreed-upon way to describe each character.

“Allowing supposedly global identifiers that cannot easily be rendered in a form that is accessible to visually impaired users is a significant problem,” the committee said.