An interesting thing happened last week. Scarily enough it was brought to my attention, not from my usual RSS feeds, but rather from my sister, who usually runs screaming from phrases like SEO and online marketing. She was listening to NPR on her drive home from a weekend trip when a news story came on about the recent approval of non-Latin characters in domain names. After hearing this news, I immediately did some research and found some articles related to what the future holds for international domain names and international online marketing.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced on October 30, 2009 that they have approved the introduction of domain names containing non-Latin characters. These domain names will be called “Internationalized” domain names (IDN’s) and, according to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and CEO, “This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet.”
Prior to this change domain names were restricted to Latin characters – the 26 characters in the English alphabet, ten numerals, and the hyphen.
It will allow nations and territories to apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name and scripts in like Chinese Hebrew, Hindi, and Korean will be allowed in the URLs. Presently these IDN only applies to certain country codes such as .jp for Japan, .cn for China, or .ru for Russia. Top Level Domain (TLD) names such as .com, .net and .gov, for the moment will remain in the Latin character form.
Why do we care?
I began to think about how this will affect online marketing as a whole, especially when it comes to branding and search engine optimization. Here is something to think about and why perhaps we should care.
Will global brands now have to purchase their IDN also? According to the Middle East North Africa Financial Network, companies will probably be encouraged to purchase their domain names in non-Latin script languages to prevent others purchasing them and creating “spoof” websites. What is a spoof website you ask? According to Wikipedia, spoofing a website is the “act of creating a website, as a hoax, with the intention of misleading readers that the website has been created by a different person or organization.” This means people could be tricked into logging into a site they think is real, when it is, in fact, the “spoofed” or fake site. For sites that ask for personal information, this could open the door to fraud. Substituting a non Latin character for a Latin character creates a completely unique URL that looks just like the domain name the reader is familiar with.
While IDN’s have been approved only recently, I feel those involved with online marketing should be aware of this change and begin to brainstorm the implications for global brands and the internet as a whole.
In conclusion, I thought you might be interested in listening to an interview with Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt on what he feels the internet will look like in five years.
Here’s the full version of that interview: