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The Debate on Special Characters in .dk Domains: Are They Safe?

Cecilia Darwish

Juridisk rådgiver / Legal adviser | Punktum dk

Special characters have been a topic of increasing interest within ICANN and among some TLD registries worldwide. While there is a broad consensus within ICANN that IDNs are beneficial and should be supported, the approach to implementing these characters can vary significantly among different registries.

Punktum dk, the registry responsible for the .dk domain, has been considering whether to expand the use of special characters to better reflect the Danish language and align with ICANN's support for IDNs. In December 2023, Punktum dk initiated a written consultation to gather input from the Danish internet community* regarding the potential expansion of special characters in .dk domain names.

The primary aim of this consultation was to ensure that the .dk domain remains relevant and inclusive, while also aligning with global trends and standards set by ICANN. By inviting feedback from the Danish internet community*, Punktum dk hoped to gauge the interest and potential benefits of expanding the use of special characters.

However, the results of the consultation were unexpected. Despite the perceived benefits of IDNs, the response from the Danish internet community was overwhelmingly negative. The majority of participants did not support expanding the number of special characters in .dk domain names. The primary concern cited was security.

Participants argued that increasing the number of special characters could lead to heightened risks of financial crime and phishing attacks. For instance, malicious actors might exploit similar-looking characters to create deceptive domain names that could mislead consumers into visiting fraudulent websites. This concern for consumer protection and the potential for increased financial crime ultimately led Punktum dk to decide against expanding the use of special characters.

This decision places Denmark in a unique position compared to other registries and ICANN, which generally support the expansion of IDNs. While the benefits of IDNs in promoting linguistic diversity and accessibility are clear, the Danish internet community's concerns highlight the need for a cautious approach to implementation.

The outcome of this consultation raises important questions about the balance between inclusivity and security. Is it always beneficial to expand the use of special characters in domain names, or do the potential risks outweigh the benefits? While Punktum dk has chosen to prioritize security and consumer protection, this decision underscores the complexity of managing domain name policies in a way that serves both global standards and local concerns.

While the broader views in ICANN and other registries leans towards expansion, Denmark's cautious stance reflects a concern for user safety and fraud prevention. As the discussion continues, it is crucial to consider both the opportunities and the challenges associated with IDNs, ensuring that any decisions made will best serve the needs and safety of the internet community.


*About the Danish Internet Community

The Internet community is anyone with an interest in the development of the Internet and according to the Danish domain law, it should have a determining influence on our work of the Registry.

The Internet community is represented through the members of the board of Punktum dk. The board also consults the Internet community when making significant changes that affect the registration and use of .dk domain names. Consultations are sent to organizations, industry associations, authorities, etc., that have an interest in the Internet. The IDN consultation was sent to about 70 consultation participants, almost 10 percent responding. Based on the consultation responses, the board, which consists of 9 representatives from the Internet community, decided to support the consultation responses, concluding that there was no basis for expanding the number of special characters

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