New EU regulation allows use of diacritics for certain web domains

A new EU regulation now makes it possible to use domains that contain diacritics- as long as they end in .eu. Demand in the Czech Republic, where a domain ending in .cz cannot contain diacritics, has been substantial- a day after the regulation came into effect, some 38,000 new domains were registered.

Starting Thursday, domain names that end in .eu can now contain diacritics- good news for Czech website hosts who wish to use diacritics in their website address. The system which makes that possible is called IDN and is already being used in Spanish domains, but now website hosts in countries like the Czech Republic and Germany, where national domains cannot contain diacritics, will be able to use them- provided they choose a web address that ends in .eu.

Experts from the Czech domain registry CZ.NIC cite a lack of demand and difficulty of access from abroad as the primary reasons why there has been no effort to introduce diacritics in .cz domains. But Regina Fuchsová, the regional manager for the central European office of EURid, an organization that oversees the domains ending in .eu, says that demand for websites with diacritics has been rather high.

“Yesterday, the first day that registration of IDNs was possible, there was a really big interest in IDNs, within the first hour, we saw the registration of 38,000 domain names.”

Germans were the quickest to jump at the newly available domain names, with the Czech Republic coming in second and France third.

Based on a decision by the European commission, this new regulation also opens the gate for domain names that are not spelled with letters of the Latin alphabet.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
“Greece was very interested, which is what we expected, because they use a completely different alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, as opposed to the Latin one. So this is one of the countries where the demand and use is bound to be really high.”

But some domains that could not be used before may turn out to just be the correct spelling of already existing domains. Could that lead to confusion for users? Regina Fuchsová again.

“Actually, this might solve some confusion. One example that Czech speakers will find useful is this: the domain name will evoke the website of the government of the Czech Republic, on the other hand, a website titled might be the personal page of somebody called Vladimir, so it can make things even clearer.”

In some cases, this new regulation may lead to legal disputes between the owners of already existing domains and the owners of newly registered ones with the same name, diacritics added. Lawyers at the Czech Republic’s Arbitration Court say they are curious how these complications brought by the new regulation will pan out.

And what does the new arrival of IDNs mean for those of us who don’t host web pages but merely browse them? Regina Fuchsová again.

“From the practical point of view, users have to check if their browsers and email clients support IDNs, and if it’s not the case, they have to download the newest versions of the programs.”