For an emoji domain to work, it must be converted into so-called "Punycode". Punycode is a character encoding method used for internationalized domain names (IDNs). This representation is used when registering domains containing special characters. The ASCII representation starts with the prefix "xn--" and is followed by the emoji-containing domain name encoded as Punycode, for example "xn--i-7iq" is "i❤" when converted back to Unicode.
Each emoji has a unique Punycode representation. For example, "😉" in an IDN is represented as "xn--n28h". There are several generators on the Internet that allow one to convert emoji to Punycode and back.
Availability and registration
The registration of an emoji domain can be more difficult than with normal domain names using only ASCII characters, since it is sometimes not possible to enter emoji into the online registration forms of domain name registrars, and instead the Punycode representation must be entered.
The first three emoji domains were created on April 19, 2001: ♨️.com (xn--j6h.com), ♨️.net (xn--j6h.net), and ☮️.com (xn--v4h.com). Cabel Sasser of Panic created 💩.la (xn--ls8h.la), "The World's First Emoji Domain", on April 13, 2011. In February 2015, Coca-Cola used a domain name containing a smiley emoji in an advertising campaign aimed at mobile users in Puerto Rico. A 2018 survey of the .ws TLD recorded approximately 25,000 registered emoji domains.
On June 26, 2020, an online collective called It Is What It Is employed the 👁️👄👁️.fm emoji domain to raise money for various social justice causes. The viral campaign, which relied on people's fear of missing out, caused thousands of Twitter users to post both the emoji domain and the phrase "It Is What It Is" in hopes of getting access to a rumored exclusive social network. In the end, It Is What It Is turned out to be a hoax designed to redirect attention to social issues; it ultimately raised over $200,000 and was featured in Wired, Forbes, Business Insider, The Verge, and Gizmodo, among other publications.
Another problem is that emojis can look different depending on the operating system, applications, and fonts used. Not all browsers support emoji domains. On Google Chrome and Firefox, emoji display as Punycode in the address bar. In Safari, on the other hand, emoji are visible in the address bar. Emoji domains are also visible in Google and Bing search results.
There are also issues with using emoji domains in social media. While they are well supported on Twitter and LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram impose serious restrictions. Support varies on messaging platforms.
At present, only Punycode encoding is advised in e-mail addresses, e.g. "email@example.com", as many MTAs and MUAs don't support SMTPUTF8 which would allow SMTP commands with non-ascii characters.
Emoji subdomains are like normal subdomains, except that they begin with emoji. Emoji subdomains are possible with many popular TLDs, including .com. As with any other emoji domain, emoji subdomains have to be converted into Punycode and can then be used as regular subdomains. Thus, domain combinations like 👍.website.tld (xn--yp8h.website.tld) are possible. This allows a wide scope of emoji domains outside of ccTLDs.
- "Punycode converter". Punycoder. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- "Punycode Converter". Charset.org. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- "Emoji Domain Registration". i❤️.ws 🔍. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
- Cyger, Michael. "The Definitive Guide to Emoji Domains". Dnacademy. dnacademy.com. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- "The World's First Emoji Domain". Panic Blog. Panic. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- Nudd, Tim (19 February 2015). "Coke Spreads Happiness Online With Emoji Web Addresses". AdWeek. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
- Johnson, Paddy (2 February 2018). "Emoji Domains Are the Future (Maybe)". Gizmodo. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
- Smith, Adam (26 June 2020). "Why Everyone Is Talking About a Strange Face Emoji". Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
- Armstrong, Paul (26 June 2020). "What Is 👁️👄👁️? Oh, It Is What It Is". Forbes. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
- "What It Really is". It Is What It Is. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
- Dewey, Caitlin (23 February 2015). "The surprisingly complex reason you never see emoji URLs". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
- Vining, Olivia. "Threat Announcement: Phishing Sites Detected on Emoji Domains". PhishLabs. PhishLabs. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
- ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee (25 May 2017). "SAC095: SSAC Advisory on the Use of Emoji in Domain Names" (PDF). ICANN. ICANN. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- "Emoji domains and SEO". Medium. Domain Research Group. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
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- "RFC 6531 - SMTP Extension for Internationalized Email".