Emoji are awesome, and even old people (like my 30-year old friends) are starting to realize it now. They add nuance to text messages that you can’t express with boring words. But emoji can do even more than that: now you can register emoji domains. I’ve bought www.🇨🇮.to. Click the link and you get taken to my Twitter page! Let’s look at how.

Find a Top Level Domain That Supports Emoji Domains

You used to be able to register any emoji domain you could think of, but since ICAAN (the group who manages domain names) changed the rules in 2010, there are only a few top level domains that support them. You can’t buy www.😈.com for example; although if you bought one before 2010, like someone did with www.♨.com, you’re still okay.

Most top level domains you’ve heard of, such as .com, .net, .org, and so on are out. But there are two that do support them: .to and .ws. They’re the top level domains for Tonga and Western Samoa, respectively.

As emoji get more popular, however, there’s a good chance more top level domains will allow emoji domains. Keep a look out, and you might be able to snap up an awesome single character emoji domain as they become available.

The Emoji Domain Workaround

RELATED: What Are Character Encodings Like ANSI and Unicode, and How Do They Differ?

Emoji domains work slightly different than regular ones. Most domains only use ASCII characters (the Latin alphabet without accents, numbers, and symbols). In fact, until 2010, they were the only characters domain names supported.

Emoji, however, are Unicode characters. Rather than a limited character set, Unicode includes everything from Cyrillic script to my beloved 🙃.

The problem was that important Unicode characters, like á or ë, couldn’t be used in domain names. This isn’t an issue if you’re American, but it is if you’re French or German. To overcome this, a system called Punycode was developed that allowed domain names to include Unicode characters.

Domain names were prepended with xn-- and then a string of ASCII characters inserted that corresponded to a specific Unicode character. www.Hárry.com is the same as www.xn--hrry-5na.com/. The users’ browser would show the version with the Unicode character, while in the background, go to the Punycode version of the domain.

Accents and important Unicode characters aren’t the only ones with corresponding Punycodes, however. All Unicode characters have them. My domain, www.🇨🇮.to, is actually www.xn--g77hma.to; it’s just that your browser shows one thing while looking up another.

This means that you need two things to register an emoji domain: a top level domain that supports emoji, and the Punycode for it.

Work Out the Punycode

Let’s start with finding out the Punycode for the domain you want to register. We’re going to use Punycoder.com.

RELATED: How to Use Emoji on Your Smartphone or PC

It’s super simple: just enter the domain you want in the left hand text box and click Covert to Punycode. If you’re not sure how to insert emoji, check out our guide on the subject.

You can see in the screenshot above that www.🙃.to converts to www.xn--b48h.to.

You aren’t limited to just single emoji domains. You can mix in regular ASCII characters as well. The .ws top level domain lets you use a few different emoji.

www.I❤️💙💖JustinPot.ws is the rather complicated www.xn--ijustinpot-co3g08699bdba.ws in Punycode.

Find Out If It’s Registered

Now that you’ve got the Punycode for the domain you want to register, it’s time to see if anyone else got their first with a WHOIS lookup. This just checks if a domain is registered and, if it is, who owns it.

Head to Domaintools’ WHOIS lookup, enter the Punycode version of your domain, and then hit Search.

Good news! This domain is available.

If it wasn’t, we’d have seen something like this instead:

Register Your Domain

Once you’ve found an unregistered domain, it’s time to make it yours. For a .to domain, head to www.Register.to. For a .ws domain, you can use most good domain registrars. My favorite is Hover, but pick any one you like.

Enter the Punycode version of your domain, click Register and you’re on your way.

A Caveat: Emoji Domains Aren’t Always Supported

One warning. Don’t use an emoji domain for something super critical. While they work in all browsers, other apps may not like them. If you copy an emoji domain into another app for example, it often won’t see it as a real URL.

The other issue is that a lot of emoji are similar. 😁.ws and 😄.ws are two different URLs, but god only knows how you remember which one you own.

I love my emoji domain. I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with the Ivory Coast flag (or the flag of an Irish ship in distress!) but I like owning it.

Profile Photo for Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
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