IDN – International Domain Names

What is IDN?
IDN or Internationalized Domain Name is, as the name suggests, the name of an internet domain. IDNs are written in different alphabets, such as Latin, Chinese, Arabic, and with specific characters, such as diacritics. It’s enough for the domain to have one single letter that isn’t in the normal alphabet (A-Z), isn’t a number (0-9) or a hyphen (-), in order for it to be considered an IDN. By using the Punycode, IDN’s allow internet users to access any internet domain as if it was written in their own alphabet.

Domain Name System
IDNs can be found in the Domain Name System (DNS). The Domain Name System translates network addresses by using ASCII strings.
DNS is a naming system for computers, services, websites, or anything else that has an internet connection. It has a decentralized structure and has the ability to create links between information and domain names. DNS is, at its core, a database, with records such as SOA, IP addresses, MX, name servers, pointers and CNAME.
Internationalizing Domain Names in Applications (IDNA)
Only applications built for such use can support IDNs, as most of them have restrictive network protocols regarding the non-ASCII characters. However, IDNA sets the rules for the conversion of non-ASCII characters into an ASCII form. By doing this, applications such as web browsers learn how to handle IDNs.
The conversion mentioned above is done with the help of a two algorithms, ToASCII and ToUnicode. These algorithms do not alter the entire domain name, they only apply to individual labels. Let’s take www.genericname.com as an example. The individual labels will be www, genericname and com.

How will your browser display IDNs?
During the last few years, most browsers implemented the IDNA 2003 standard. Away from your eyes, yours will convert IDNs using the method described above. In most cases, you won’t even be aware of it. The only browser that supports the IDNA 2008 standard is Opera.

What is Punycode?
Punycode is a branch of Unicode. By using Punycode, you can convert Unicode characters to an ASCII form, by encoding them as strings of numbers.
Top-level domains
In 2009, a new class of top level domains was born. These domains are assigned to countries and regions, just as the country code top level domains. The sole changes this new implemented top level domain brings is the lack of restrictions regarding the characters and the prefix “xn” before the converted code. You can use any kind of alphabet, diacritics, symbols, language specific characters as long as you keep visual uniqueness.

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