Domain Names – Character Usage Guidelines

December 20, 2011 by  Filed under: Domain 

How many characters can I have in a domain name? What sort of characters can I use? These are questions often asked by people registering a name for the first time.

Second level domain names, meaning a name with a label directly preceding the registry extension (which is the Top Level Domain or TLD), can contain up to 63 characters.

The following are some basic guidelines for valid characters for use in domain names in most cases, with some exceptions to the rules after the list.

– Any of the letters of the alphabet are permitted

– Any numbers 0 to 9 can be used

– You may also use a hyphen

– Domain names cannot begin or end with a hyphen

– You can use a combination of numbers, letters and hyphens

– You can use multiple instances of hyphens, but in some cases not a double hyphen

– Domain names can begin and end in a number

– Other forms of punctuation, symbols or accent characters cannot be used

– The name’s length must be between the range of 3 and 63 characters

The easiest way to remember most of these rules is to think “LDH”; which stands for Letters, Digits, Hyphens.

In regard to double-hypens, you can use these for generic extensions such as com, net and org, but some country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) operators do not allow them, such as in connection with the Australian au extension. The use of double hyphens should be considered carefully as some people are of the opinion these indicate “spammy” domains.

Another exception to the character rules is in relation to accent characters. These may be used in connection with some Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) such as the eu extension.

IDNs can also include some non-ascii characters such as those used in the Greek alphabet and Chinese, Japanese and Korean scripts.

The use of capitalization can also be a confusing aspect, but the bottom line is domain names are not case sensitive. This means you can register and advertise your name in upper or lower case or a combination of both and it will function correctly regardless of the representation.

While you are able to use 63 characters; bear in mind that the longer a name is, the harder it may be to remember; or the more likely it is that it will be incorrectly typed into a browser. The use of hyphens, particularly multiple instances or use of double hyphens, can create similar challenges.

A very lengthy name might also be more difficult to include on stationery, such as business cards.

Michael Bloch is an online business consultant with years of experience in the web hosting and domain names sector. Michael is currently consulting for Australia-based Domain Registration Services – start your domain name search.

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