Some days I feel like there are topics which almost seem obligatory in the tech blogging community.
Today, for example, is the day of posts about Google and the Department of Justice. That’s one thing I like about John Scott’s Internet Marketing Blog – he rarely talks about the things everybody else is talking about.
Makes me feel kind of hypocritical to move forward and talk about his blog, now, but one of today’s posts got me thinking. The post is on internationalized domain names. There is a proposition outstanding (being incorporated, actually) to incorporate non-Latin characters and letters with diacritics into the domain name specification. John talks extensively about the negative side to this – but I’m going to try and address the positive aspects.
The most obvious advantage to internationalized domain names is the increase in availability of non-Latin names. Many languages utilize characters which cannot be represented in domains now – and have to make use of alternate characters or spellings to approximate their names.
Most people will predominantly use websites in their native languages. They will have keyboards which are configured for that language, making it easy to type the needed characters. Users of websites which are not in their native language are already accustomed to needing special characters in their repertoire. Personally, I have a little note next to my desk with the unicode representations for ö, ü, and other commonly needed characters auf Deutsch.
I doubt that internationalized domain names will ever be of particular use for major international sites, who tend to protect their brand in every way possible, but they may well see extensive use in eastern European and Asian countries for small, local businesses and personal sites.
In an extensive poll I conducted, only one person preferred IDN to romanized domains. The other two people who responded preferred romanized.
I’m well aware that John’s "extensive" adjective is tongue-in-cheek. Regardless, I’m moderatley confident that none of his interviewees were native speakers of a language using primarily Romanized characters. Had he interviewed a native Romanian, Lithuanian, or perhaps Japanese speaker the proportion may have come out differently.
Most websites are maintained for marketing purposes, as John says – however, many websites are only intended to serve a market which is essentially local. Restaurants, local stores and personal homepages are commonly targeted at non-global markets. These entities could make perfectly reasonable use of internationalized domains and provide their customers with easier access to their websites.