Emoji Domains are 👌

May 28, 2017. Our response to the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee Advisory on the Use of Emoji in Domain Names

5 min readMay 28, 2017


This response is also available at I❤️ICANN.ws.

Domain Research Group has a long standing policy of awarding free Emoji Domains to any International Governing Bodies issuing policy reports on Emoji Domains. Contact us for details.

This is the beginning of a conversation about the future of Emoji Domains.

Uhhh… What?

Neither registrar nor registry, Domain Research Group is a think tank and research project based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Our Emoji Domain registration site, i❤️.ws, launched in October 2016 during a 24 hour hackathon, has obviously hit a tipping point: we’ve registered enough new domains that we’ve attracted the attention of ICANN.


In their report, the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee is quite critical of Emoji Domains.

Totally worth reading, SSAC’s assessment is both thoughtful and thorough. Broadly speaking, we agree.

Since the report goes its entire length without mentioning a single Emoji Domain, here are some examples:

The public loves ‘em.

People see an Emoji Domain and they get it. It’s a concept which advertises itself.

If Emoji Domains weren’t compelling, SSAC wouldn’t be reporting on them.

Emoji Domains, You’ve Officially Gone Too Far

Our position: the characters used every day all over the world deserve a place in the dotcom world, right along side of 𓂸.com.

Hieroglyphic domains. For real! When it comes to pictoral representations in domain names, the 𓃮.com is out of the bag. (Even if they’re not rendered correctly on every browser.) If ancient, largely unsupported languages are valid for dotcom, emoji should be part of the domain lexicon.

Emoji are everywhere.

Every day, billions of people send trillions of emoji text messages. It’s not just kids: even business applications like Microsoft Word have extensive emoji support.

Emoji are ubiquitous. Familiar. Universal.

Give ☮️.com a chance! Actually: that domain already exists… it was registered in 2001.

Emoji Domains Work

Although Emoji Domains should be considered experimental, they work natively on mobile phones.

Safari, with over 700 million iPhones in use worldwide, displays “i❤️.ws” natively in its address bar. In other browsers, the Emoji Domain functions as expected — it directs the browser to the correct place — but the domain displays as punycode in the address bar.

This is all new. Uncharted territory. Innovation.

Currently, many users elect to use their Emoji Domain as a short, expressive link which forwards to a more pedestrian dotcom-type domain.

That said, with the rise of Progressive Web Apps and Mobile Only websites, we wonder how long that will continue to be true.

But before this concept achieves full mainstream viability, SSAC is correct. There are underlying issues which need to be addressed.

No. You’re a Homonym

Who can tell the difference between 💃🏼 (type-3 dancing lady) and 💃🏽 (type-4 dancing lady)?

Emoji similarity and homonym attacks — using a look-alike domain to impersonate another domain — are, indeed, a reasonable concern about Emoji Domains.

Of course, those types of homonym attacks are hardly unknown to the dotcom world: there’s weed.com, weed.com (xn — eed-v6x), and ᎳᎬᎬᎠ.com (xn — 58dxa0a).

Point taken though.

Emojis are particularly problematic since there are a bunch of emoji which, commonly rendered, look exactly like other emoji.

For instance: 🇺🇲, the flag of the U.S. Outlying Islands. It looks exactly like the US Flag, but totally isn’t the US flag. Certain browsers treat it like the US Flag though… sometimes.

As an industry, we should do something to address that issue.

Zero Width Joiners: The “PenIsland” Problem

Determining the boundaries between words can be complicated… even in English.

Many of the newer emoji aren’t just single emoji, but rather combinations of emoji stuck together together.

👩🏼‍🔬Female Scientist Type 3 =
👩 U+1F469
🏼 U+1F3FC
ZWJ U+200D
🔬 U+1F52C

By design, punycode drops those ZWJ (Zero Width Joiner) characters, making it more difficult to accurately reconstruct a domain’s “true” visual representation.

That is to say, 👩🏼‍🔬.ws = 👩🏼🔬.ws

Emoji interpretation is hard. We should simplify.

Whitelist the Yellow People

Emoji support doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

The way forward for Emoji Domains is to whitelist a clear, unambiguous, universally acceptable set of emoji: ❤️⭐️😀🤖🐶🍟⚽️🏀🏈💰🚫💯…etc… and get rid of all the skin color modifiers.

After that, you end up with a clear and universal set of a few hundred emoji, totally useful in worldwide communication.

We start with a small and conservative list. It doesn’t have to be the hippest Unicode character set to be a legitimately valuable online communication tool.

For our part, we’ll publish an Open Emoji Domain Whitelist Standard and warn people when they register domains containing confusable emoji.

We totally welcome your input.

We bet there’s an easy consensus to be reached.

New Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

Emoji Domains represent an unprecedented opportunity for clever small businesses to get great domains, previously locked away in high priced speculator’s markets.

Thousands of two letter combinations, millions of 3 letters… the possibilities aren’t literally infinite, but they’re, like, really big.

It’s like a new mining technique: all of a sudden, exciting domains become available to ordinary consumers on an extension they all know: dotcom.

As we’ve seen in the .ws space, with Emoji Domains, lack of 💰 is no longer a barrier to a truly memorable domain name.


We want to thank the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee Advisory for exploring this issue and take it as a certain badge of honor that we ended up on your agenda at all. Thank you for all your hard work.

Geez guys. Emoji Domains. Have a little fun. 😀

Emoji Domains are logical and inevitable in a world of mobile communication.

If we work together, set up some basic and responsible Emoji Domain registration rules, we can ameliorate all the concerns noted in the SSAC report.

We appreciate your feedback. This is the first step towards Emoji Domain consensus.

Then you can finally get your dream domain: I❤️ICANN.com

PS. Props to the Medium engineers who obsessively built this editor, your commitment to Unicode is ridiculous. Hieroglyphic support! Thanks!




i❤️.ws: Emoji Domain Registration... Get your own Emoji URL! Twitter: @emoji_domains