You may have come across the term “Internationalized Domain Name” (IDN), or you may have even seen one. These are special domain names that include letters from different alphabets - Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese, etc. In this article, we will look at what exactly IDNs are, and whether you should register one for your website.

So, what exactly is an IDN?

An IDN is a domain that includes characters from native languages/scripts. These are non-ASCII characters, i.e. characters that are not a part of the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) encoding. In simple words, these are non-English letters or Latin letters that include diacritics or ligatures (dots, a tilde, an accent, combined letters, etc.). For better compatibility, domain names that use such non-ASCII Unicode characters are converted into ASCII using Punycode - an encoding method which consists of lowercase a-z letters, digits and a hyphen.

For example, Universität, which is the German word for “University”, will be translated to Universitt-y5a. Web browsers, however, may display such a domain name as xn--universitt-y5a. The prefix is often added on purpose so that browsers and users know that this is an IDN, not a regular ASCII domain. Today, that prefix will appear only if a domain includes letters from more than one script – you can find out why below.

This is an example of how an IDN is represented in ASCII using Punycode.

If you want to see the ASCII representation of a domain name, or you have come across an IDN and you want to see the actual name, you can use a converter. You will find a lot of online tools. All IDNs are converted using the IDN2008 specification that describes the exact rules how certain Unicode characters should be converted into Punycode depending on the script they use.

There are two types of internationalized domain names. The first one includes names in local scripts that use a standard ASCII extension, such as .COM, .NET, .DE and so on. A number of gTLDs and ccTLDs support such domain names these days. The second type includes IDN TLDs such as .中国, so the entire domain name can include only non-English characters.

Left: an IDN with a standard TLD; right: an IDN with an IDN TLD.

Short history

IDNs are not something new. In fact, they were first proposed at the end of 1996, and adopted in 1998. In 2000, registering IDNs with the .COM and .NET TLDs became possible, and in 2001, a number of ccTLDs started supporting IDN registrations. In 2003, a mechanism to handle IDNs in applications (IDNA) was developed, which was an important step towards the wider adoption of these domains. Later that year, the Polish and the Swedish registries became the first European organizations to start registering IDNs.

.ලංකා is the equivalent of the English .lk in Sinhalese - a language, spoken in Sri Lanka

In 2009, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the creation of internationalized domain name extensions during a meeting in South Korea. The latter were introduced in 2010, so today you can come across country-code top-level domains such as Jordan (الاردن.), Russia (.рф), or Sri Lanka (.ලංකා). This was a huge step to a truly diverse global online community as people could have everything related to their web presence in their own language – operating system, web browser, domain name and website content.

In 2012, more than 100 applications for new gTLDs in local scripts were accepted. Among the first ones to be approved were شبكة (xn--ngbc5azd) – the Arabic word for “Web” or “Network”, онлайн (xn--80asehdb) – Russian for “Online”, and 游戏 (xn--unup4y) – Chinese for “Game”. They went live in 2013.

Stats & Facts

Here are some facts about internationalized domain names:

  • IDN domains with the standard gTLDs or the new IDN gTLDs follow the same rules in terms of registration period, management, WHOIS privacy protection, etc. as any standard domain name. In other words, if you have a standard .COM domain name, you can register and use a .COM IDN name just as easily.
  • As of 2023, there are 93 IDN gTLDs and 61 IDN ccTLDs.
  • There are IDN TLDs in 37 languages and 23 scripts.
  • 79% of ccTLDs support IDN registrations at the top level (2022 figure)
  • According to ICANN, there are more than 8 million IDN domains. Most of them are registered under IDN ccTLDs.
  • More than 50% of the IDN domains worldwide are registered using the Chinese script.


While there is no doubt that internationalized domain names are an integral part of the World Wide Web and the global domain system, there have been some controversies through the years that have had an impact on IDNs in one way or another.

IDN homograph attack

This type of attack involves using a non-Latin character to register a domain name that is similar to another name. Here is an example:

The name on the left is the original one, while the one on the right includes four Cyrillic letters. Can you spot the difference between the two names?

A homograph is a word that looks like another word, but has a different meaning, hence the name of this method for tricking users. The homograph attack became popular in 2002 when two researchers published a paper, describing a proof-of-concept attack. They registered a fake domain name for that purpose. Unfortunately, you can still see IDNs that have been registered in bad faith, with the idea to scam people. While this attack was possible in the past as well (using 0 instead of o, for example), the adoption of IDNs made things easy for scammers.

Most modern web browsers offer a high level of protection against such attacks. All Chromium-based browsers (Chrome, Edge, Brave, etc.) and Firefox will display an IDN with its original spelling only if all its characters are from the same script. If two or more scripts are included, you will see the Punycode representation. Fake domains can still be used in emails or for distributing malware, though.

Using our earlier example, here is what Google Chrome will display if the domain uses letters from one script (left) and from two scripts (right).

Rejected IDN ccTLD applications

You can decide if these TLDs look similar or not.

Another IDN-related controversy is the rejection of some applications for IDN TLDs by ICANN. One popular example is .бг - the Cyrillic equivalent of .bg in Bulgarian. After two rejections and years of negotiations between ICANN and the Bulgarian government, the extension was finally approved. Before that, it was considered to be too similar to Brazil’s extension .br. The Brazilian government supported the rejection of the application. The case of Greece’s .ελ was very similar – the claim was that it was too similar to the reserved .EA, or to Estonia’s .ee.

The fact that some countries registered IDN ccTLDs with ease, while others could not do that for years, showed that even matters that are meant to include more people into the large online community, can actually divide people. The way ICANN favored some countries and rejected or delayed certain applications gained them nothing but criticism.

Lack of universal acceptance

Although IDNs have been around for more than a decade, lots of applications and websites still do not accept them. Surveys show that only 11% of the top 1000 websites accepted email addresses that use Chinese or Arabic script (graph and source link below). The situation is not much different when it comes to email clients and email servers handling emails with IDN senders/recipients. In 2015, ICANN and several leading tech companies formed the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG) - an organization that raises awareness about the lack of Universal Acceptance (UA) when it comes to accepting and adopting IDNs in applications. There is still a long way to go, though. If you are interested, you can check their annual report for 2022/23.

Source: ICANN

So, do you need an IDN?

The answer to this question depends on your target audience. We have listed a few reasons why registering such a domain name may be a good idea.

  • Reach local audiences. An IDN will allow you to reach local communities better than any other domain. People who prefer to use their local language or simply do not know enough English will be more inclined to click on a local domain name. You don’t have to build a separate website – you can redirect the internationalized domain name to your main domain or to a localized page.
  • Reach more people. If you don’t have identical content that may make your websites compete with each other, you can reach more people with two different domain names. Even if you don’t use an IDN to target local communities, the domain will appear in search engine results.
  • Cultural representation. There are thousands of languages around the world, and they use lots of different scripts. IDNs are one of the ways to represent these cultures in the online world. If you are a part of a local community, this is a way to express yourself. If you want to reach a local cultural community, your domain name will be recognized if it uses a local script.
  • Gain people’s trust. If you want to find more customers from a certain area, it is more likely to find them with an IDN. They will trust your website more as it will use a domain in their local language. In the ideal case, you can register a domain name using the local TLD, but .com/net/info are recognized worldwide as well. It is more likely for local people to trust such a domain than a global one.
  • Local SEO. People tend to search in their own language, so it is likely for your IDN name to appear in search engine results even before more popular websites. The reason is that such a domain may be an exact match for the word(s) or phrase(s) people search for.
  • Attract people’s attention. It may be more likely for people to visit a website out of curiosity if it uses an IDN.
  • Easy to remember. Many local domain names that use English letters actually spell local words. In many cases, the exact spelling of some words can be ambiguous due to the differences in the language and the local script. If you use an IDN, you will not have such a problem and it will be easy for people to remember your domain name.
  • Brand protection. If your domain name uses English letters, somebody may decide to register an IDN that uses the same extension and matches the letters of your own domain, but with the local script. You can’t register your name with all possible TLDs, but you can at least register the IDN equivalent of your domain with the same TLD, if it supports IDN registrations.

Using an IDN with ICDSoft

Our web hosting platform fully supports internationalized domain names, so you can add one to your Control Panel with a couple of clicks. The domain name will be displayed in the Domains section using its original script. For better compatibility, its folder in the File Manager section will use the Punycode representation. This way, you will always know if you are managing the files for an IDN or for a standard domain name.

You can also register an IDN with us. We offer IDN registrations for the .COM and .NET extensions, so if you want to use such a domain name, you can get one on our website, or through your ICDSoft Account Panel if you already use our services. Managing your new domain will be as easy as managing any other domain in your account.


The internationalized domain names are not that common, but they have a significant impact on the World Wide Web as their existence is one of the ways to include people using different scripts/alphabets in the global online community. IDNs allow users from all around the world to build or visits websites that use a language which is familiar to them – both for the content and for the web address.

A lot of registries support IDNs these days, so you can choose whether to register an IDN with a standard extension, or with an IDN TLD. Using an internationalized domain name has its advantages, so you can register one for your main website or as an extra domain. We offer IDNs with the .COM and .NET extensions as well, so you can order one on our website or through your Account Panel with ease. If you decide to register an IDN elsewhere, including one with an IDN TLD, you can host it on our servers as easily as any other domain name.


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