Emoji seem to be everywhere, expanding beyond the use of texting. There have been questions and discussions on the use of emoji in domain names recently. With the emoji hype, we have to ask ourselves – should emoji be everywhere?
The popularity of emoji has exploded with the adoption of Apple’s iPhone. Emoji have a place in our daily life, saving seconds out of our busy days by communicating a certain feeling or expression without typing out a full phrase.
Emoji seem to be everywhere, expanding beyond the use of texting – so much so that July 17th has been deemed “World Emoji Day” and there was even an entire movie created all about it (sigh).
With the emoji hype, we have to ask ourselves – should emoji be everywhere? Or should their use be limited to what it was originally intended for – sprucing up your texts.
There have been questions and discussions on the use of emoji in domain names recently. This past May, ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee released a paper that outlined the risks associated with the idea of allowing emoji to become domain names.
At the time of writing this post, only a handful of top-level domain registries allow emoji in domain names: one example being .ws, the .CA equivalent for Samoa and .to for Tonga.
Ultimately, the recommendation was discouraging the use of emoji in domain names. While there are a few exciting reasons to explore using emoji in domain names, there are also many logical reasons not to use them.
Emoji are too similar
The point of a domain name is to be easier to remember, perhaps descriptive, than an IP address. We recommend that small businesses use their business name and keywords to create descriptive and memorable URLs to attract more visitors to their website. An emoji domain arguably wouldn’t work like that – some of them are unique, but many of them are too similar. Take the simple smiley face. Will it be easy to tell the difference between one with round eyes and the other with oval eyes on first glance? I’m guessing not.
They might be novel, part of a fun marketing tactic but they are not critical to a business and certainly not practical. You want to be unique, but you also need to be smart.
Let’s not forget that they can be misinterpreted. According to the Toronto Star, lawyers have been increasingly encouraging companies to avoid using emoji in the workplace , citing that the meaning of an emoji can change on the context and culture in which they’re used. The misunderstanding of the meaning of an emoji used in a conversation between coworkers can potentially lead to law suits.
Emoji are designed to be viewed and there is no agreed upon way to speak or enter an emoji, which makes them difficult to use with accessibility software. This means that the visually impaired will not be able to recognize your domain name if you choose to use emoji. Why exclude people from your website and what you are trying to communicate? We want the internet to be accessible to everyone so moving away from that makes no sense.
It just doesn’t work
It might seem like a good idea on the surface but there are many challenges and security considerations that cannot be easily addressed. The very least is that visiting the “get emoji” website to copy/ paste is a time-consuming process. Try it out for yourself, but make sure you set aside enough time for this.
.CA is a legacy TLD and recognized symbol of Canada online, but many new gTLDs when advertised don’t read like a URL. The general public already has a hard enough time recognizing new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) like .beer. Why make it even more difficult for someone to recognize and access your website?
Now, to get a bit technical, what you intend in your domain when using emoji may end up showing in your visitor’s browser as Punycode, which represents Unicode with foreign characters. Some browsers, like Chrome, won’t recognize the Punycode for security reasons as it is often used in phishing attacks that compel people to click on a link that takes them somewhere that can either immediately infect their computer or compel them to give personal information.
So you may have a great-looking or humourous emoji-domain (i❤.ws) that ends up looking something like this xn--i-7iq.ws. Not so clever anymore is it?
As we can see, there are some legitimate concerns for using emoji in domain names: they are too similar to one another, they are difficult to make accessible and the browser support is weak. While trendy and creative, let’s keep emoji out of domain names for now (and maybe out of the cinema too, if an 8% rating on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes is any indication).