David Madore's WebLog: Internationalized Domain Names

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Internationalized Domain Names

I thought it was still a project, but apparently it “already works”: I refer to Internationalized Domain Names (as defined by RFC 3490), or the possibility of inserting (almost arbitrary) Unicode characters in Internet domain names—that is, one can now buy not only domains with names such as myname.com but also those like мояфамилия.com; the way it works, really, is that when any IDN-compliant program encounters a domain name like мояфамилия.com, it transforms it into something cryptic like xn--80aqalcbm2c2fg.com (the encoding is an extremely complicated one, known as Punycode, which is described in RFC 3492) and then handles it as if the user had typed exactly that. So basically we could say that the Internet domain name registrars have found they could sell such absurd domain names as xn--80aqalcbm2c2fg.com by telling you that it really means мояфамилия.com and by persuading the authors of Web browsers and whatnots to perform the conversion. Ingenious.

All this means, of course, that people will abuse the system in every possible way. One question is whether character normalization prescribed by RFC 3454 (another unmanageably complicated specification) will actually be performed or whether it will turn out to be possible to register domain names such as goo<zero-width unbreakable space>gle.com or other idiotic things. Someone has already pointed out that it is possible to register paypal.com with a cyrillic ‘а’ instead of the second ‘a’, in other words paypаl.com, which really means xn--paypl-7ve.com (here, Mozilla is being overzealous: I actually write this as a link to http://www.xn--paypl-7ve.com/ and it displays it as a link to http://www.paypаl.com/; this would be acceptable behavior if I had written http://www.payp&#x430;l.com/—in HTML—or http://www.payp%D0%B0l.com/, but this is really going too far). IE, as usual, is saved by not adhering to standards. Ha, ha, ha.

Conversely, there may be rules about not registering domains of a single character, but what if someone wishes to register xn--2sx.com, literally? Well, it's been done already, it seems.

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