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About that $3,800 emoji domain sale…

Kevin Murphy, June 5, 2017, 15:08:13 (UTC), Domain Tech

The debate over the age of the emoji domain name ☮.com may have been settled. It probably is as old as it was claimed to be.
You may recall that last week I blogged about the €3,400 ($3,816) sale of the domain to an end user. It wasn’t a big sale or a big story, but it’s so rare to see an emoji name sell I thought it was worth a few paragraphs.
It had been claimed, and I reported, that the name was 16 years old, having been registered in April 2001.
Later that day, ICANN principle technologist Paul Hoffman, who was co-author of the IDNA2003 standard that governed how non-ASCII domains were represented in the DNS, questioned whether the name could possibly be that old.
Under IDNA2003, IDNs are encoded with the “xn--” prefix. While applications may render ☮.com as the “peace” symbol, in the DNS it is in fact
Hoffman told me that the prefix had been picked more or less at random in March 2003, so there was no way a speculator could have known in April 2001 how to register a domain that would have no meaning for another two years.
In addition, the Punycode standard that converts non-Latin characters to ASCII was not finalized until 2003 either.
It seemed more likely that the creation date in the Whois record was incorrect, so I updated the original blog post with the new information.
That kicked off a bit of a debate in the comments about scenarios in which the creation date was correct. Some commenters wondered whether the original buyer had registered many domains with different prefixes with the hope of getting lucky.
What none of us considered was that the domain itself changed between 2001 and 2003. Given new information Hoffman supplied over the weekend, that now strikes me as the most plausible scenario.
What most of us had forgotten was that Verisign launched an IDN registration test-bed all the way back in December 2000 ( link).
That roll-out, controversial at the time, encoded the domains with Punycode predecessor RACE and used the bq– prefix.
However, after the IDNA2003 and Punycode standards were published in 2003, Verisign then converted all of the existing IDN .com domains over to the two new standards. Names beginning bq– were changed to xn--, and the encoding of the subsequent characters was changed.
So ☮.com very probably was registered in 2001, but in ASCII it was a completely different domain name back then.
We seem to have a rare(ish) case here of the creation date in the Whois being “right” but the domain name itself being “wrong”.
There may be as many as half a million .com domains with similar issues in their Whois.
I hope this clears up any confusion.

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Comments (17)

  1. Acro says:

    Outstanding research!

  2. Louise says:

    What about the ability for the user to change the date?
    Godaddy has a feature where you can change the renewal date.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I doubt that would affect the registry’s creation date.

      • Louise says:

        Why couldn’t it? VeriSign sells ConsoliDate so Registrars can offer change of date for a single domain to, “high value customers.” –
        “[ConsoliDate] will provide a means to synchronize renewals for large group of names, or even simply set a desired date of expiration date for a single domain name. The service will be fulfilled at the registry by the current registrar of record for any given domain name registration within the top-level domains administered by VeriSign. Expiration dates can only be adjusted forward to a month and day within one calendar year of the current date.”
        The domain is backdated date-by-date, like ladders of a rung, not all at once, from what I have observed.

      • Louise says:

        Registrars work hand in hand with VeriSign as a syndicate to change dates and protect valuable, particularly stolen, domain names. I highlighted this six years ago at the DomainInvesting link I posted, below.
        I am not implying you, Joseph Peterson, and George Kiriokos are shallow, thick and slow. But, if you won’t see reality because a woman discovered it first, then that is sad.
        Plus, according to my opinion, I go to considerable risk of death to keep saying that insiders at the major Registrars, ICANN< and VeriSign form a syndicate, which has implication to not just the US economy, therefore the world's economy, but its security.

  3. Vito says:

    Really great research and follow-up research.
    Now with what we know, If the creation date has changed to being 2 years newer is this still the oldest emoji domain?
    If so, I believe $3800 was a steal.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Third-oldest by a matter of hours, according to the research by Michael Cyger linked in the original article.

      • Vito says:

        Oh ok thanks Kevin.
        Well being one of the first emojis regged on day 1, in the top 3 based on someone elses research, still a steal for under 5k. Cool novelty as well with it being a dot com since dot ws is the standard now.
        Thanks for the info!

        • ☮.com says:

          Hi, I wouldn’t describe ☮.com as a steal because the auction was VERY well advertised in many outlets by the previous owner who is now our friend. All the historical provenance of the domain was published by Michael Cyger and Jon Roig before the auction. Our bid came in after a relatively high first bid for an emoji domain. I don’t think anybody was expecting that initial high bid. But we proceeded with our bid which was second and no one bid higher afterward. If the auction was held today I believe it would likely be the same result (if the original auction never happened).

          • it is a very good bargain and time will tell.
            at the moment emojis dot com are super rare so you have
            bought it super cheap.
            it is not an object\item that related to a big brand so finding a
            deep pocket end user will be hard. but still it is an awesome domain.

          • ☮️.com says:

            I saw your wonderful interview with Cyger and you mentioned there are about 40 or 50 emoji dot coms. Where did you find that stat?

  4. ☮️.com says:

    Thanks for updating us all on this. Outstanding journalistic work. We are grateful for the opportunity.

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