05 April 2009

Internationalized Domain Names

I had no idea. Not only are internationalized domain names— domain names with non-ASCII characters— already here (at least, they work for me in Firefox 3.5), there is a cool URL-shortening service called tinyarro.ws that uses them to make really short URLs. For example: http://✿.ws/ਛ

I guess this is nice if you are using Twitter.

(There is a standard by which domain names with international characters are translated, at the client side, into longer ones that contain only ASCII characters.)

Given the phishing possibilities associated with IDNs, this is positively terrifying. Either web browsers will need to alert users to the presence of international characters, or people will have to use a completely different mental model of trust on the web when following hyperlinks.

Update, 4 August 2009: it is my understanding that Firefox shows the translated (i.e. ASCII-only) URLs in the address and status bar, but, unfortunately, only for certain TLDs (like .com).

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