Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs): The Greek .eu Domain

Thomas Rickert, Director of the Names & Numbers Forum at the eco Association, caught up with Giovanni Seppia from EURid recently to discuss the .eu launch for Greece.

Giovanni, .eu for Greece, what what does that mean?

Giovanni Seppia: That, quite a long time ago – in 2009, when ICANN launched the IDN fast track for ccTLDs – we applied upon request of the European Commission for the .eu in Cyrillic and the .eu in Greek. The .eu in Greek got delegated last month, in September, after quite a long saga, a long history of fall backs and different kind of issues that we went through because of confusing similarity, and then we managed to get the delegation. So we are very happy that we have completed the availability of the scripts for the European Union languages. So it’s Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek scripts.

From 14th of November, if you are using the Greek script, you can register the Greek .eu in Greek. So, it’s Epsilon, Ypsilon (ευ). And we will implement it straight away with full matching of script. It means that if you want to have a Greek domain name – a domain name in the Greek script – you must have it under the .eu in Greek. And since that day it won’t be possible to register Greek script domain names under .eu in Latin.

So that would basically help the Greek community to make the online world feel a little bit more like home, now. IDNs (internationalized domain names) have been known to cause technical issues with certain systems. Are you aware of any Universal Acceptance issues for that TLD?

Giovanni Seppia: Every year we analyze the internationalized domain name environment. And we have the IDN World Report that has been produced in cooperation with UNESCO, Verisign, and the ccTLD regional organizations. Indeed, there is a section about Universal Acceptance. Universal Acceptance keeps being the main barrier for IDNs (internationalized domain names) to be fully used. And that’s because at some point, if you want to use an email address out of the domain name you have registered in IDNs (so in non-ASCII-based domain name), there are some restrictions. Some browsers that do not accept IDN emails, and some social media platforms do not accept IDN emails, either. And so, there’s been quite a lot of work at different levels at ICANN to promote the engagement of the technical community, to encourage IDNs to be used and also to make them accessible. At the same time, there are still a lot of situations which are in the process of being sorted out.

Recently, a company has been promoting their tool for IDN emails that makes it possible for IDN emails to be used on any kind of platform or browser anywhere, and they’ve implemented and started selling this solution to several IDN registries in the Far East and rest of the world. In our case, we have been trying to promote this tool with some of our registrars in Greece and in Bulgaria. But because it’s a tool that has a cost, we are still negotiating on how to support the tool and the cost of the tool with registrars which are quite active in those countries.

Indeed, Universal Acceptance remains the main challenge for IDN domain names, and therefore IDN websites and email addresses.

But the concerns are primarily for email address, right?

Giovanni Seppia: The concerns are primarily for email addresses, yes.

So those who are interested in those domain names should feel quite safe using an IDN .eu for their websites?

Giovanni Seppia: Yeah, for websites there’s no problem that we have detected at the present. And you can see more data in the Universal Acceptance section of the IDN World Report .eu on websites. For websites, it’s OK. For e-mail addresses, there’s still quite a lot of work to be done, especially if you really want to use the email address, and on different platforms.

I guess it’s important to note that this is not under the control of EURid to fix, but it’s for Operating System and application providers.  

Giovanni Seppia: Exactly. It’s now a matter of international cooperation and making sure that all the political, social, and technical communities work together to sort out a method.

For those who are based in Greece, who might be interested in a Greek version of the .eu domain name, is there any sort of grandfathering program where those who have a particular string under the .eu TLD get privileged access to the Greek version?

Giovanni Seppia: Not really. ICANN has requested us to have the script matching rule implemented (so Greek.Greek, or Cyrillic.Cyrillic, and Latin.Latin). For those who have registered the Greek .eu domain name in Latin script (we have currently a couple of thousand domain names in Greek script registered under .eu in Latin), we will do what we have done for the Cyrillic. This means that at the moment we go live with the .eu in Greek, the domain names under the .eu in Latin which are in Greek script will be cloned under the Greek .eu. And for three years, there will be a coexistence of Greek.eu in Latin and Greek.Greek, and the registrants and registrars can use both of them at no extra cost. At the end of the three-year period, on the 14 of November 2022, we will phase out the Greek .eu domain names in Latin. This is an adjustment process that we implemented successfully for the .eu in Cyrillic. And now all the Cyrillic domain names are under .eu in Cyrillic. We have a communication plan to reach out to the registrants and registrars of the Greek script domain names with the .eu in Latin to make sure that they are all aware of this transition.

Does this only apply to existing registrations, or also to new registrations?

Giovanni Seppia: This applies to existing registrations – those that are in existence at the moment of the launch. Because from the launch onwards, it is going to be only Greek.Greek. So if you want to register Καλημέρα.eu on the 14th of November, it will be kαλημέρα.ευ, (with the eu in Greek). The system will refuse Greek script domain names under .eu in Latin.

Okay great. So what are your market expectations for the TLD?

Giovanni Seppia: Not big at all. I mean, we have to be very pragmatic. We do not expect millions of registrations. We expect really a few hundreds of registrations, because first of all, most Internet users are spoilt by using English, and especially in Greece where they are – because of history and the way the Internet developed – very familiar with the English language, and they have English keyboards, and these kinds of things. So, we do not have a great expectation of growth for the .eu in Greek.

What we are very proud of is that we are offering it because it’s part of our strategy to support online multilingualism. So it doesn’t matter how many, for us it is a matter of offering it and then supporting the use of Greek.Greek domain names. This is what we have been doing with Cyrillic. It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. There is a lot of resistance even by local Internet service providers. Local registrars are the first ones to say, in most of the cases, “What’s the point of having a Greek script domain name?” And we try to explain to them how important online multilingualism is.

Are you expecting a lot of unique content to be generated for the domain names? I mean, we’ve seen that with .cat, for which we have a lot of unique content.

Giovanni Seppia: If you look at the findings of the IDN World Report, what you see is that there is a clear association between the language of the possible website and the script of the domain name. So, it is very likely that if it’s a Greek .eu and a Greek domain name, the primary language of the website is going to be Greek. What we know is that there are some companies – one of them was a Web Awards nominee last year – there are Greek companies using Greek .eu in Latin as their domain name. They will move. They will change to the Greek.Greek. And of course, the primary language for the content of that website will be Greek. And they have already told us they will work on that. So again, it would be a further opportunity to support online multilingualism and support people expressing themselves in their native language.

You mentioned your strategy for online multilingualism. Can registrars expect campaigns from you to support that?

Giovanni Seppia: Yes. Currently we are in contact with Greek and Bulgarian registrars. We are very active in those two markets to have this IDN email tool introduced. So, they can offer it to those people who would like to register their own domain name in their local script. We will be happy to sponsor similar initiatives. We are in touch with around five to eight Greek and Bulgarian registrars. Should we not get a positive response from them, we will not give up, and will contact other registrars who are active in those markets but are not based in those markets, because we really would like to offer this possibility to  registrants of these countries.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Giovanni Seppia: It was a great challenge to get the .eu in Greek delegated. It was a great achievement for us. And again, it’s really fully in line with our strategy of being a truly European TLD.

Thanks so much, Giovanni. Keep up the good work.

Giovanni Seppia: Thanks a lot, Thomas.


Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs): The Greek .eu Domain