Can Domain Names have Special Characters?31-12-2023 - Blogs, FAQ
Can Domain Names have Special Characters?
The straightforward answer to whether domain names can include special characters is nuanced. Traditionally, domain names are confined to alphanumeric characters and hyphens. Symbols like an exclamation point, dollar sign, or ampersand were off-limits. However, the advent of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) has expanded the landscape, allowing characters from different scripts and languages to be used – this inclusion caters to a wider global audience, ensuring greater accessibility and diversity.
What Are Special Characters in Domain Names?
Within the context of domain names, ‘special characters’ refer to anything outside the standard English alphabet (A-Z), digits (0-9), and the hyphen (-). Domain names can’t include spaces, underscores, or symbols, limiting creative expression and linguistic accuracy. With the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), this is kinda changing – atleast when it comes to symbols. IDNs permit a variety of non-ASCII characters, often drawn from different languages such as: Cyrillic, Arabic, German, Chinese or any of the Nordic languages. By leveraging the Unicode standard, IDNs enable internet users from diverse linguistic backgrounds to access domain names that accurately represent their intended meanings using their native characters.
Historical Context – ASCII and Domain Names
The origins of domain names are tightly interwoven with the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) system, devised in the early computing days. ASCII was instrumental for text-based communication, encoding characters into numerical values that computers could understand. Initially, domain names adopted ASCII’s limited character set – essentially the English alphabet, digits, and a few special symbols. This constraint mirrored the technological limitations and the predominantly English-speaking user base of the early internet. Historically, ASCII’s restriction prevented the use of diverse scripts and symbols in domain names, which later led to the development of newer systems to embrace global linguistic diversity.
So are Special Characters Allowed?
Today’s domain name system has evolved to become more inclusive, gradually allowing the use of special characters. This shift is predominantly due to the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) which enable the incorporation of a broad array of Unicode characters. As a result, characters beyond the traditional ASCII set, including accents and non-Latin scripts, can be represented. This reflects the internet’s global nature, accommodating a wider array of languages and alphabets. Nonetheless, there are still technical guidelines and limitations to ensure consistency and prevent confusion. The IDN standards rigorously outline which characters are permissible, maintaining a balance between diversity and the technical integrity of the web.
Considerations When Using Special Characters in Domains
Including special characters in domain names offers a more inclusive and representative internet landscape but brings practical considerations. Users must possess the necessary keyboards or input methods to type these domains. There’s also a need for universal browser and search engine support to ensure that these specialized domain names resolve correctly for all users. Compatibility issues may arise, potentially leading to reduced traffic or accessibility concerns. Moreover, the potential for misinterpretation or confusion is increased, especially with characters that resemble common ASCII characters, a technique often exploited in phishing attacks. Careful consideration is necessary to navigate these practical hurdles while harnessing the benefits of utilizing special characters in domain names.
As we talked about in our post “How to choose a good domain name” – opting out of special characters in domain names can be a strategic choice to streamline user experience. It sidesteps potential input difficulties and compatibility problems across different devices and services. By steering clear of unconventional characters, you effectively minimize the risk of losing traffic due to misinterpretation or input challenges, maintaining a seamless online identity.
SEO Implications of Special Characters in Domain Names
Special characters in domain names can significantly impact Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While they enable culturally appropriate and linguistically diverse domain options, they can be challenging to integrate into a global SEO strategy. Search engines have improved at handling Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), yet indexing and ranking challenges persist. Users are less likely to type special characters directly, often defaulting to ASCII equivalents, which may not redirect to the intended site, leading to missed SEO opportunities.
How to Register a Domain with Special Characters
Registering a domain with special characters involves a few extra considerations. Firstly, search for a domain registrar that supports Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) – such as: GoDaddy.com, NameCheap.com or one.com
When you’ve found one, use their search tool to check the availability of your desired domain. Keep in mind that you’ll have to input the domain in its native script. The registrar will convert the special characters to ‘Punycode’, enabling compatibility with the Domain Name System. After selecting your domain, proceed through the registration process, providing the necessary information and payment. Finally, double-check the domain’s accuracy, especially the special characters, to avoid any mistakes that could be difficult to rectify later on.