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Domains with special characters

The Internet has been international since its inception. Thanks to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), people all over the world use the many possibilities of the Word Wide Web, more and more often offered in their mother tongue.

All this is made possible by the so-called international domain names (IDN), available to users since 2003.

Until 2003, domain names could only contain the letters of the Latin alphabet, Arabic numbers from 0 to 9 and dashes (-) because they were based on the standard set of ASCII characters (American Standard Code for Information Interchange).

ASCII includes almost all the characters of a keyboard for the English language and is not very representative for an international project.

To solve this problem, the “Internationalizing Domain Names in Applications” (IDNA) system has been adopted as standard, which defines a standard conversion from Unicode to ASCII and thus allows the use in the domains of each symbol present in all known alphabets.

Internationalized domains, sometimes abbreviated to IDN or NDI, are considered to be one of the biggest revolutions in the history of the Internet. The first to take advantage of these domain names are users who use an Asian, Arabic or African alphabet and would like to create offers online in their language.

But the novelty of internationalized domains has also been welcomed with pleasure in countries like Germany, due to the umlauts (characters like ü, ö and ä), and in France, given the importance of the accents.

Since July 2012, internationalized domain names can also be registered in Italy. The special characters allowed in a .it domain are the following:

à, â, ä, è, é, ê, ë, ì, î, ï, ò, ô, ö, ù, û, ü, æ, œ, ç, ÿ, β

Although the use of these characters is not very common in .it domains, only a few providers offer the possibility to register them. In general, the choice of characters varies according to the Top Level Domain (TLD) chosen.

To ensure that internationalized domain names can be processed on the Internet by many systems, which support ASCII code, each IDN domain, written in Unicode, is converted into a so-called ACE string, which is based on ASCII characters.

The conversion from Unicode to ASCII takes place on the client side (browser, e-mail, programs, etc.) and is based on Punycode, a standard coding system.

Today all contemporary internet programs should be able to understand IDN domains. But, among the problems of internationalized domain names, sometimes there is still the transition from the IDNA 2003 standard to the IDNA 2008 standard, the consequences of which are still being suffered, as well as security issues.

For example, an attacker can deceive a user by referring him to a bogus website in order to steal his personal information. A possible solution to cope with these difficulties may be to register several variants of the same domain name (for example one accented and one not) and redirect them to the main domain through Redirect.

In any case, focusing on domains with an accent can be an opportunity to find new functional solutions for a given project, but on this point of view the opinions are conflicting. As mentioned before, domains with an accent could also cause problems.

In reality, domains with accent represent a great opportunity to be seized at all costs. Domains with special characters must be viewed in the same way as new gTLDs. These are opportunities that allow you to turn your digital business around.

Don’t make the mistake of seeing the news on the web as problems. On the contrary, these are opportunities to be seized to allow a professional to differentiate his work from that of his colleagues.