ICANN SSAC Recommends Rejecting Emoji TLDs and Domain Names

ICANN logoEmojis are common in text messages and social media. And a few ccTLDs, including .ws (Samoa) and .la (Laos), and several registrars, allow them to be registered in domain names. However the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) has recommended that the ICANN Board reject any top level domain that includes an emoji and that any domain names that include emojis should be strongly discouraged.

One of the reasons for disallowing emojis is the similarity from one to another. It is difficult to distinguish from one to another, particularly in smaller fonts. The report notes that “distinguishability is not a design consideration when creating new emoji; ambiguity is acceptable.” When used in domain names though this ambiguity increases the risk of user confusion.

Used in top level domains, this ambiguity is a problem and adding emojis to “domain name labels will only make this problem worse and may reduce acceptability of non – ASCII labels due to their being perceived as simply too confusing or dangerous.”

The report also notes that “as users find it hard to recognise and remember the corresponding A – label form of an IDN domain, many will become suspicious and decline to use or accept the IDN domain name.”

“Additionally, there is a problem with accessibility, given that emoji are intrinsically visual constructs. Existing IDNA characters represent text in natural languages, for which there are well developed accessibility techniques. However, there is no agreed upon way to speak or enter an emoji, which makes them difficult to use with accessibility software. Allowing supposedly global identifiers that cannot easily be rendered in a form that is accessible to visually impaired users is a significant problem.”

As a result, the report makes 2 recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Because the risks identified in this Advisory cannot be adequately mitigated without significant chang es to Unicode or IDNA (or both), the SSAC recommends that the ICANN Board reject any TLD (root zone label) that includes emoji.
Recommendation 2: Because the risks identified in this Advisory cannot be adequately mitigated without significant changes to Un icode or IDNA (or both), the SSAC strongly discourages the registration of any domain name that includes emoji in any of its labels. The SSAC also advises registrants of domain names with emoji that such domains may not function consistently or may not be universally accessible as expected.

The SSAC report is available to download from:
https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/sac-095-en.pdf