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Emoji Domains & Mastodon

It has been well over a decade since I first started playing around with emoji domains and in that time I have learned nothing.

First, some background. I decided to move my Mastodon account from @[email protected] to my own domain. Like many wise people, I didnโ€™t want to run my own server. Been there done that. So I decided to setup a managed server with mastohost. Great pricing for my needs, and me and any future bot accounts I create can live on the domain of my choosing.

Out of all the domains I own, my first choice was to use, my rel=me domain. But hosting a Mastodon instance requires the web interface to be on HTTPS port 443, and the same domain as the accounts, no subdomain, but I am using that domain for my idenity by building a static 11ty website there. So that was a non-starter unless I determined all the paths I really needed to proxy. Not something I cared to figure out at the moment.

So then an evil thought came into my head. I could use my old ๐Ÿ”.tk domain. I would be @dwk@๐Ÿ”.tk, a fun nod to my old @pulletsforever on Twitter, which I chose because all versions of my name were already in use by the time I went there. This was evil because I know that emoji domains tend to break things, especially in domain names.

As anyone who waches the news on domain registrars knows, Freenom, the authority on dot tk domains is basically nonfunctional after a lawsuit in favor of Meta. This means that I canโ€™t update my records on that domain. Since Freenom didnโ€™t notify anyone of the shutdown, including paid customers, I was completely unaware until days after editing my DNS records. Back to the drawing board.

My next shortest domain is I initially thought would use something pedestrian like Short, sweet, functional. But emoji domains are cooler. And Cloudflare lets one use emojii as a subdomain. Hmmโ€ฆ

A quick history on emoji in domains. They have been around since 2001 when โ˜ฎ๏ธ.com was first registered. Then in 2011 Panic Software purchased ๐Ÿ’ฉ.la, which had a viral moment at the time. That caused me to explore ๐Ÿ”.tk. A lot more has been written about emoji domains at iโค.ws, but what is most important is ICANN has wisely advised TLDs to reject emoji domains on security grounds. That being said, ICANN canโ€™t regulate which Punycode domains are allowed in subdomains. As long as the sub-domains follow the guidelines on ASCII characters, they are valid domains.

My next step, as is often the case, is to look for a valid emoji for my cause. I ended up choosing pager (๐Ÿ“Ÿ) since SMS pagers were the oldest devices able to access the orginial and Mastodon is Twitterโ€™s logical replacment.

I setup a mastohost instance at ๐Ÿ“Ÿ and followed these instructions for moving my account. All was good until Tapbots Ivory complained I was no longer authorized. This made sense as I had migrated my account, I assumed I just need to update the server being used. Clicked over to the app and entered ๐Ÿ“Ÿ as the new server name and I couldnโ€™t click โ€œContinueโ€. Damn.

Ok, I can undersand their reasoning, my first thought was to setup a redirect poing at the emoji version. I gernerally hate single letter domains, they convey little information about their purpose and are as bad as single letter variable names in code. But having a shortcut that was easy to type is not bad. This did not work. I got a mesage that the server was not responding as expcected. Apparerntly Ivory does not support HTTPS redirects

Maybe they do and are rejecting domains that inculde the punycode string xn--, that would be bad, as most are valid ICANN domains. Maybe they have a list of all emojii that maps to punycode, better, but now they are violating the lack of ICANN rules for subdomains. Maybe they just donโ€™t translate unicode to punycode.

The last idea seems to be true, as I now own the beautiful handle of @[email protected] in Ivory.

Ivory Mastodon Profile

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Looks like the root cause of Apple OSes not detecting emoji domains is rdar://6923664