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Character Variants

Registrants typically register domain names that have meaning in their own language such as a name, word or phrase. However, a single script may be used by more than one language. As a result, a domain name may have different meanings in the context of other languages or cultures. The variant phenomenon has been classified into four different categories: character, orthographic, lexemic, and contextual variants. FreeYourID has determined that addressing character variants is essential to enable users to navigate the Internet in their own languages. The other variants require difficult linguistic judgments that are not essential to delivering a robust IDN solution.

Chinese Character Variants

Many languages may have character variants that could potentially cause end-user confusion. For example, the Chinese language has two written forms: Simplified Chinese, used primarily in Mainland China, and Traditional Chinese, used primarily in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Southeast Asian countries. The two written forms share many characters; however, simplified characters in Simplified Chinese may have the same meaning as complex characters in Traditional Chinese. These characters, called character variants, have the same meaning and pronunciation, but they do not look the same.

A Character Variant Solution

Different thought leaders in the technical community have suggested different approaches to address the character variant issue. Each approach has both positive and negative aspects. However, the IDN community is in agreement that the character variant issue may never fully be addressed because languages are always in a state of change. New character variants between languages will continue to be introduced into languages. FreeYourID has adopted language tags that reference language tables to address the character variant issue.

FreeYourID has worked to address the issue of character variants with interested stakeholders, including China Network Information Center (CNNIC) (.cn), Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC) (.tw), National Internet Development Agency of Korea (.kr), Japan Registry Service (JPRS) (.jp), the Chinese Domain Name Consortium (CDNC), and the IDN Implementation Committee established by ICANN.

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