Israel is to become the 43rd country to have an IDN variant of its ccTLD.
On May 19, ICANN announced the successful string evaluation for .ישראל, or .xn--4dbrk0ce in punycode. This is the Hebrew text for “Israel.”
The application adhered to ICANN’s Fast Track Process and was submitted by the same organization that operates the .il registry: ISOC-IL. The application was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Communication, in a statement that can be found here.
In a statement to the Jerusalem Post, Yoram Hacohen, CEO of ISOC-IL, said that the .ישראל extension “will open up for Internet users in Israel a new layer of activity and access in the language spoken by the people.”
There are currently around 250.000 domains under .il. Russia, arguably the best example of a successful introduction of an IDN ccTLD, has 5.7 MM domains under .ru and another 900.000 under the Russian variant .xn--p1ai (.рф). Applying that same ratio, in a best case scenario we could see around 40.000 domains registered under .xn--4dbrk0ce (.ישראל).
However, that may be a bit optimistic. Applying the ratio from China, a country whose IDN ccTLD has seen moderate success, the projection isn’t so rosy. There are 23MM .cn domains and another 200.000 under .xn--fiqs8s (.中国), yielding a ratio of 115:1. Applied to Israel, that would mean only a zone size of only around 2000 for .xn--4dbrk0ce (.ישראל).
The examples of Russia and China are offered only as a base-level comparison. Whether .xn--4dbrk0ce (.ישראל) becomes a relevant extension is not simply a function of the .il zone size, but rather will depend on how it is marketed. Bundling the Latin-script ccTLD with its IDN variant, as was done in Taiwan, is the surest way to put domains in the hands of local users.
There are no details on the launch of .xn--4dbrk0ce (.ישראל). Should it be available in some capacity to international users, of if there is a special allocation to .co.il registrants, we will update this space to provide the relevant information.