News that the campaign in Scotland to obtain a new Top Level Domain (TLD) for Scottish online web addresses is stepping up. A TLD is the short code that comes at the end of a website name after the dot which forms part of its internet address. So we have generic addresses like .com, .net, .org, etc. But what the Scots want is a country-specific domain name (a country-code TLD or ccTLD), in this case .scot. This will give Scotland a national web-address similar to that of other nations such as .us (United States), .fr (France), .de (Germany), .uk (United Kingdom).

Which brings me to Ireland.

Our ccTLD is .ie (dot ireland, though some generous souls have erroneously interpreted it as dot ireland/eire). Variations of it are used by private and public bodies (the Government of Ireland uses gov.ie). While English was traditionally seen as the language of the internet, with the Western Latin/English alphabet as the only workable one and no ‘special’ characters as the norm, those days are long gone (the non-Latin alphabets are now widely used as technology – and the web – has moved on). There are now no practical reasons why the Irish name of Ireland, Éire, cannot be accommodated in a dot éire address (and there is always simply a dot eire one if required, e intead of é). Non-English speaking nations have used their own national languages for their national domain names since the beginning, i.e. Germany (.de), Spain (.esp), etc. so Ireland using .ie instead of .éire is something of an anomaly.

With the opening up of the domain name registration process (despite predictions of an internet ‘Wild West’ or ‘Gold Rush’) and the loosening of the rules over what can and cannot qualify as an internet address, now is the perfect time for the Irish Government to register the .éire address as our national ccTLD name. I’m not saying get rid of .ie if some feel an attachment to it or see some benefit by retaining its status as an alternative internet code for Ireland. But what better way is there to reflect a bilingual nation than having two internet domain addresses reflecting the two different languages of the nation? It is perfectly feasible (and financially viable) for websites in Ireland to have separate English and Irish language internet addresses: .ie for English and .éire for Irish.

That would get rid of the current practice of websites here going up in the English language first as a .ie address and the Irish language version being added as an extension, usually .ie/ga. If this wasn’t acceptable at the very least the .éire address is surely the one the Government of Ireland should be using as the national one for all state and semi-state agencies instead of the gov.ie and its variations (rialtas.éire?).

Of course this is not the first time that Ireland’s bilingual nature has sought expression in the official signage of the state. The campaign to have Irish vehicle number plates with an ÉIRE sign rather than or as an alternative to the present IRL version is long-standing one and has received mixed responses from our body politic (lots of the right noises, few if any of the right actions). The default setting of the English language for modern Ireland is no longer acceptable or tenable. The times have changed and so has the demographics of our population. With 42% of Irish citizens identifying themselves as Irish speakers, and the Constitution designating the Irish language as the national and first official language of the state, casual bias in favour of the monolingual English speaking population cannot be justified or defended.

With the liberalisation of domain name registration rules and qualifications it is time for Ireland, as a nation and a state, to claim its place on the World Wide Web – in both our official languages.

5 comments on “Time For DotÉire?

  1. I thought .ie did stand for Ireland/Éire.

    And the new domain, which would cost a few hundred thousand, will have to be .eire without the síniú fada.

    Next up, .gael!

  2. I’m actually pretty sure it could have the fada in it.

    See here a list of current internationalized country code top-level domains:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains#Internationalized_country_code_top-level_domains

    Some info here:

    http://thenextweb.com/industry/2011/06/12/the-multilingual-web-a-year-of-non-latin-script-domain-names/

    And generally related:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top-level_domain

    Gah, the first one didn’t have the link. Tá fáilte romhat é a scriosadh, a Shéamais!

  3. Thanks for the Comment, RG. Forgive my ignorance, but I thought ‘native scripts’ were accommodated now under the internationalized country code top-level domain? Would that not include the síniú fada in the Irish alphabet?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internationalized_country_code_top-level_domain

    If not then .eire would be acceptable.

    What would you use .gael for if .eire was available?

  4. Yeah, i think you’re right about the IDN ccTLDs. I thought the new changes just included non-Latin scripts but will probably enable accents etc. on words using Latin script too.

    I suppose .gael would be useful for the wider Irish language community who are not based in Ireland, and could also include our Scottish brothers and sisters.

    .cat for example is not exactly based on the territory of Catalunya – it is only used by the Catalan linguistic community.

  5. I think so myself, RG, there should be no technical reason why .éire cannot be registered. It just takes the will, imagination and self-confidence to do so. Virtues the Irish political establishment is not exactly noted for, of course… 😦

    Didn’t think of .gael but it makes sense. A diaspora.gael?

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