How to Get Your Own Emoji URL
Coca Cola recently bought a bunch for a marketing campaign in Puerto Rico, so why don't more people have emoji in their URLs?
Image: Theus Falcão/Flickr
Coca-Cola has wrangled a lot of press recently for its latest marketing campaign in Puerto Rico featuring a bunch of URLs that are just emojis:
The attention hasn't come because this is particularly clever advertising—all of the URLs bounce to a single page where users can sign up to try to score one of the domains from Coke. It's because, despite the ubiquity of emojis, you never see them in domain names. Is Coke really the first company to think of this?
No, it's not. App developer Panic registered the first corporate emoji domain back in 2011 when it bought
.la. Panic didn't really do anything with it (the page just says Poopla! and has a floating poop emoji) but hey, it's there. So why aren't more companies, or individuals for that matter, jumping at the chance to get
It's simple: they can't. All of the big name top level domains (.com, .org, .co.uk) only allow Latin characters in their domain names.
"Top level domains choose to do this to try and prevent phishing attacks on users," explained Josh Farrant, a software developer and technology blogger who recently secured the domain
"Since, for example, there are several different characters which all look like a letter 'a', a malicious website could easily impersonate a genuine site by using one of these characters to try and trick users into giving them their sensitive information," Farrant told me. To prevent this, top tier domains just flat out refuse non-Latin characters.
Newer, country-specific domains aren't quite as picky as the .coms and .nets of the world. Places like Samoa (.ws) and Tokelau (.tk) allow for emoji characters when registering domains, though they might not forever. Laos (.la, where Poopla is hosted) used to allow for emojis but has since stopped accepting URLs with the cartoon images. So if you want an emoji domain, you'd better act fast.
But another reason why you don't see very many emoji domains is because it is kind of tricky to register. There's no
button on your keyboard, so how do you even enter the domain you want? Farrant's solution: Punycode.
"In its simplest form, Punycode is just a way to represent complex characters—such as emoji, letters with accents, and Asian characters—using the basic set of Latin characters which are allowed by the Domain Name System," Farrant explained to me. "It's normally used to display Asian characters and accented letters, but it can be used to represent emoji in exactly the same way. Browsers see this code, then render a Unicode character, such as an emoji, in its place."
Farrant used Punycode to translate the computer and coffee cup emoji into a string of text that tells a browser to display the small graphics. He then went online and searched for the domain name with that text and in a few clicks he had
You can do the same by entering your emoji of choice (it's easiest via your phone) into a Punycode converter, then registering for that Punycode string with a .tk or .ws domain.
Unfortunately, some browsers including Chrome still don't support emoji characters, so some users won't be able to see your unique domain. The lack of support has caused platforms like Twitter to craft their own set for display, Farrant said. There are plugins you can use to get around this, but Farrant thinks eventually the popularity of the characters will prevail.
"I know that Google will be adding support to Chrome very soon, within the next few months, and we can only hope other browsers follow suit," he said.