Is it time for emoji URLs?

Original author: Manon Verchot
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Emoji domains have existed for many years, but still have not gained popularity

[ Unfortunately, the Habr editor does not allow you to insert emojis into the text. Emoji links can be found in the original text of the article ( copy of the article on the Archive website ) / approx. perev. ]

If you enter the addresses and .ws in the address bar of your browser , you will be taken to two different sites. And this is only one of the problems of people using emojis in URLs.

Domains that use emoji have been around for quite some time, and have become famous thanks to the Coca-Cola ad campaign, launched in South America in 2015. Using 2823 available emojis overcomes language barriers, which can be useful for international companies.

But they did not take off for several reasons. For example, in practice, emoji URLs are much easier to enter on a phone than on a desktop computer. Many people do not even know about the commands that open the emoji keyboard in their browser. Emoji cannot be entered into the user's biography on Instagram and as links in Google Docs.

Even operating systems dragged on for a long time with emoji support. On Mac, they did not appear until OS X 10.7 Lion, on iPhone - until iOS 6, on PC - until Windows 7, on Androids up to 4.4.

However, since emojis are constantly updated by a Unicode consortium that approves standards for them, some of the newest emojis may not be displayed.

For example, Page Howie, an investor in domain names and digital assets, is bad at emoji URLs. “If I tell you“ your domain will be a teddy bear emoji dot double es ”, it will be longer than the domain itself and will require a few words,” says Howie. He sold domains like and for millions of dollars.

Howie owns about 450 emoji domains. The most expensive of them is .ws, or “smiley with smiling eyes”, or “emoji with a blush”, for which he is asking for $ 9500, and the cheapest - “triple snow”, for which they are asking for $ 95.

On another website for sellers of emoji domains, Efty, some domains sell for $ 59,000.

“I think interest in emoji domains has fallen due to the fact that this is a very new topic, and that most people hesitate when confronted with the first nuisance of such domains - the inability to pronounce it,” says Howie.

By the way, about the inconvenience - these symbols are also not always fully compatible with screen-reading programs intended for people with visual impairment or poor vision. Non-Visual Desktop Access, an open-screen on-screen reader for Windows, as well as a program built into Apple computers, can pronounce them out loud, while the built-in readers for iOS and Android phones cannot. Therefore, “I am you ” will be read as “I am your red heart” on iPhone and “I am your heart” on Android.

For ICANN's domain name and IP address management corporation, emoji domains are another big problem : they are insecure.

“Some emojis on different platforms look different, so when a user looks at the URL, they may not know what symbol is displayed there,” says Paul Hoffman, ICANN’s chief technology officer. “Moreover, some emojis are very similar to others, and this can lead to confusion, and in the worst case, to fraud.”

In theory, a user can easily fall for phishing by clicking on emoji with a green apple ( ) instead of an emoji with red () The same can be said about emojis, depicting people with different skin colors. Even the same emojis look different in different browsers and social networks, which can be confusing.

“The impact of emoji on security and interoperability has convinced the public that they should not be allowed to use them in domain names,” adds Hoffman.

There are two types of domains, generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). ICANN helps maintain order and security in the world of shared domains by issuing rules for their use. But she does not have authority over how each country decides to register its domains. Therefore, if emojis in .com or .org domains that fall under the jurisdiction of ICANN as gTLD domains cannot be used, they can appear in the domains of different countries, for example, Samoa, which decided not to follow ICANN standards. Therefore, emoji domains end in .ws.

Howie confirms the security concerns about using emoji domains, but insists that this problem does not negate the existence of a market for them.

Many emoji domains redirect users to regular web addresses. For instance,.ws (happy face) redirects the user to the personal site of the Australian photographer. And .ws (phone) - on the website of a Mexican company engaged in web design.

Search engines, such as Google, also know how to search for emojis in domains. Emojis work in the Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Google search engines, although in response to a search for emojis like pizza or a hamburger, you'll get pages explaining what emojis are. Therefore, if you are trying to find the nearest pizzeria or hamburger, searches using emojis will not help you. But you can still search for them and some sites get their visitors through such searches.

Howie expects emoji domains to become more popular, and is preparing for what he considers possible. Most recently, he bought domains that use emojis with a slice of pizza and emojis with a home. He does not buy all emoji domains for resale, but focuses on those that can become popular, for example, emoticons or triple emoticons. He chooses what, in his opinion, can become commercially valuable in the future, as well as with which people can experience an emotional connection.

“I think their novelty did not allow their popularity to grow as fast as we would like,” says Howie. “But they have a hidden tendency to increase in popularity.”

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