Internationalized Domain Names: it’s not all Greek to me

This short article was spawned by a discussion over at Namepros, whereupon a domainer listed several Greek IDN domains that he owns, seeking the feedback of native Greek speakers.

When one invests in non-ASCII domains (IDN) it is important to be familiar with the culture and habits of that particular nation that uses that language.

Popping open a two-way dictionary e.g. English-Greek / Greek-English is not enough.

It can also lead to misconceptions about what constitutes valid words and phrases, which can make one look like an ignorant idiot.

Most importantly, it can cost you the registration fees for a useless domain.

I will be blunt: don’t waste your time and money on Greek IDN domains.

The reason is simple: on the Internet, most of the time, Greeks don’t type in Greek.

Shocked? Disgusted? Well, so am I.

I love my language. Through several eons of existence, the Greek alphabet and language have evolved from the ancient times and have given birth to Latin, thus producing the range of Western languages, including English.

The problem with modern technology is that it’s adapted differently by different cultures. While e.g. the Chinese live and breathe their own language on the Internet, Greeks prefer to type words phonetically or by visual substitution into what has been known as “Greeklish“.

A while back, I wrote an article on companies that should never do business in Greece, due to their lack of knowledge of the local market’s language and social behavior.

In an nutshell: Greeks – as much as 80% of the urban population – can fully understand English content. When marketed to in English, the comprehension of the mottos, slogans etc. is almost 100%

Due to the proliferation of Greeklish – the use of latin characters to depict Greek words – there is currently no target market for Greek IDN domains. No sane Greek person – domainers excluded – will switch to Greek keyboard, type in a keyword and will switch back to English for the .gr or the .com in order to type in a URL.

The same applies to other electronic devices and popular Internet destinations: texting on cellphones, chatting on IM software, twitter, facebook, portals, forums, search engines, etc. is done mostly in Greeklish when user interaction is required.

Perhaps it’s an inherent “laziness” but it goes back to the days of early Internet and UNIX systems, before Windows 95 – when Greek students abroad could only communicate, type and chat on networks such as IRC using only Latin/English keyboards.

Furthermore, certain words that exist in the dictionary can be outdated or passé versions of modern words currently in use. Even if such a word is valid or in the dictionary, that doesn’t mean that it’s correct or useful to register as an IDN domain.

The existence of the “tonal sign” on Greek words – a slanted tick on top of stressed, intoned vowels (or their left side, when the letter in question is the 1st letter of a capitalized word) complicates matters further:  a stroked IDN domain is different from a non stroked one; you’d have to get both versions if you considered the keyword to be important enough. For the record, the non-toned version of a Greek IDN domain is the same as an all-caps version:

ΑΘΗΝΑ.com and Αθηνα.com (Athens, the city) resolve to the same domain puny code but Αθήνα.com is a different domain name. Not to mention, that Αθηνά.com (Goddess of wisdom, female name) is yet another one.

Confused yet?

I’ll spare you the nostalgia of my Internet experience during the early 90’s for another time; I’ll wrap this up by re-iterating my position on Greek IDN domains one final time: don’t waste your money on them.


  1. Acro, I’m not really bullish on Greek IDNs as an investment, but I’d like to ask : aren’t there websites that are 90%+ written in hellenic script/greek alphabet ? Wouldn’t those webmasters interested to have a greek web address resolve to their website ? Just a thought.

    Also, would you say that a Greek person would be more incline to click on link from the serps/adwords ad if it was in greek script vs greekish vs english.


  2. JSL – Content has nothing to do with URLs and interaction. For example, the majority of Greek web sites are in Greek (as opposed, to Greeklish). But let’s say that a forum or a comment form is provided, the majority of those that communicate via the form will use Greeklish.

    It’s important to separate two things: reading and writing.

    While Greeks read Greek, on the Internet they prefer to write in Greeklish.

    So yes, AdSense ads in Greek work just fine. They usually point to .GR or even .COM web sites – the domains themselves are 99% of the time in ASCII.

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