ICANN Says Emoji Domain Names Should Be Rejected & Discouraged

emoji domain names

ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) has released a report stating it has studied the concerns and concluded that the use of emoji domain names should be discouraged.

Emoji are “pictographs (pictorial symbols) that are typically presented in a colorful cartoon form and used inline in text.” They are popular on smartphones, in chat, in email applications, and in social media, where they are part of a trend toward pictorial forms of communication to augment (or replace) text.

Many single- and multiple-code point emoji have been included in the standard Unicode repertoire since version 6.0.3.

Due to their popularity, there have been questions and discussions on the use of emoji in domain names.

The standard for IDNA was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and is documented in Requests for Comments RFC 5890RFC 5893 and was designed to create narrow the set of acceptable labels, a set of identifiers that are relative to a particular language community, acceptably reliable, easy to distinguish, and easy to input.

Even though Coca-Cola used a number of emoji domains for its 2015 marketing campaign in Puerto Rico and companies like Budweiser, Honda and Ray-Ban has done the same, emoji and other emoji-like symbol characters (e.g., ☺, �) belong to the Unicode “So” category and thus, are disallowed by IDNA.

Emoji domains also goes against the Universal Acceptance principle which stipulate that all applications and systems must treat all Top Level Domains (TLDs), including new gTLDs and internationalized TLDs, in a consistent manner. Specifically, they must accept, validate, store, process, and display all domain names unambiguously.1

SSAC findings says that:

  1. Emoji are disallowed by the IDNA standard; domain names with emoji will not be accepted or processed consistently by applications.
  2. Emoji are not required by design, standard, or convention to be visually uniform (one code point displayed the same way in all circumstances) or visually distinguishable (different code points displayed in ways that permit them to be disambiguated regardless of context). As a result, a user will be exposed to problems of confusability and accessibility. Different code points that are rendered the same or one code point that renders differently to different users will lead to inconsistent results depending on the display or rendering technology used.
  3. Emoji modifiers and “glue” arrangements allow for a potentially much larger set of composed multi-codepoint symbols with even greater rendering variation and potential for ambiguous interpretation.
  4. A fundamental property of the DNS is that it is an exact-match lookup service. For a given query, either there is a single name that matches or there is no match. When two domain names are identical in appearance except for ordinary typographic style variations (which, at present, have no equivalent for emoji), but have different underlying code points, they identify two different DNS domains.
  5. While Unicode is used in the DNS, such usage should be considered secondary and it is unrealistic to expect that just because a code point is included in Unicode, it should be used as part of a domain name. Domain names are used by end users and need to be constructed in such a way as to allow easy and accurate transcription by the end user from one context to another.

Thus the board recommended that since the risks identified cannot be adequately mitigated without significant changes to Unicode or IDNA (or both), they recommend that the ICANN Board reject any TLD (root zone label) that includes emoji.

They also advises registrants of domain names with emoji that such domains may not function consistently or may not be universally accessible as expected.

As domain registrar ourselves, we couldn’t have agreed more with their assessment and conclusion. The internet is not yet matured enough for such changes.

ICANN SSAC focuses on matters relating to the security and integrity of the Internet’s naming and address allocation systems. This includes operational matters, administrative matters, and registration matters (e.g., pertaining to registry and registrar services). SSAC engages in ongoing threat assessment and risk analysis of the Internet naming and address allocation services to assess where the principal threats to stability and security lie, and advises the ICANN community accordingly.

What do you think?

Should emojis be allowed to be registered as a domain name?

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