Parlez vous Umlaut?
by Jan Libbenga
Good news for all Müllers, Jägers or Schröders in Germany. They will no longer have to write out their surnames as mueller.de, jaeger.de or schroeder.de if they want to use them for Internet domain names. Starting 1 March 2004, domains with Umlauts and other additional letters (so called IDNs) can be registered under the Top Level Domain .de.
DENIC, SWITCH and nic.at, the registries for domains in Germany, Switzerland/Liechtenstein and Austria, announced these possibilities today. "This switchover is going to cater for the wishes expressed by numerous users, given that the rule applicable today does not go beyond the character set needed for English and hence imposes restrictions on other languages," the registries write in a joint press statement. “Eliminating these has grown into an important priority for the Internet.”
Anyone wishing to register a domain today is still restricted to the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, the digits 0-9 and hyphens.
The introduction of the new IDN (Internationalised Domain Name) standard does much more than permit umlauts. A total of 92 additional characters, from the French é to the Danish ø, will adorn domains. German-speaking Internet users will have to do without just one character: the German double-ess. According to international rules, this is equivalent to its transcription as ss. It would simply not be possible to distinguish between the domains straße.de and strasse.de.
Internationalised domain name registration may be available to users in some other countries as part of a test bed.