Developers of major pieces of internet software, including the world’s most-popular messaging app, may be relying on seriously outdated lists of top-level domains.
That’s the picture that seems to be emerging from one new gTLD operator’s quest to discover why WhatsApp doesn’t recognize its TLD, and many others including major dot-brands, as valid.
And ICANN isn’t interested in helping, despite its declared focus on Universal Acceptance, the CEO of this registry claims.
When most social media apps detect the user has inputted a URL or domain name, they automatically “linkify” it so it can be easily clicked or tapped without the need for copy/paste.
But when Rami Schwartz of new gTLD .tube discovered that .tube URLs sent via WhatsApp, said to have two billion users, were not being linkified, despite the TLD being delegated by ICANN almost eight years ago, he set out to find out why.
Schwartz compiled a spreadsheet (.xlsx) listing which gTLDs are recognized by WhatsApp and which are not and discovered a rough cut-off point in November 2015. TLDs delegated before then are linkified, those delegated after were not.
According to my database, 468 TLDs have been delegated since December 2015, though not all are still in the root. That’s about a third of all TLDs.
This means that, for example, .microsoft domains linkify but .amazon and .apple domains do not; .asia domains linkify but .africa and .arab domains do not; .london works but .abudhabi doesn’t. Even .verisign missed the cut-off.
If WhatsApp users include a “www.” or “” then the app will linkify the domain, even if the specified TLD does not exist.
During the course of a discussion on the web site of the Public Suffix List — which maintains an open-source list of all TLDs and the levels at which names may be registered — it was discovered that the problem may be deeper rooted than the WhatsApp app.
It turns out a library in the Android operating system contains a hard-coded list of valid TLDs which hasn’t been updated since November 24, 2015.
Any app relying on Android to validate TLDs may therefore be susceptible to the same problem — any TLD younger than seven years won’t validate. Schwartz tells us he’s experienced the same issues with the Facebook app on Android devices.
The problem is of particular concern to Schwartz because he’s been planning to market .tube as a form of link-shortening service, and without full support among the most popular messaging apps such a service would be much less attractive.
“I can’t launch this now if it’s not going to work in WhatsApp, if it’s not going to work in Facebook,” he said.
While engineers from Facebook/WhatsApp parent Meta now seem to be looking into the problem, Schwartz says his complaints fell on deaf ears for a long time.
He additionally claims that “ICANN doesn’t really care about universal acceptance” and his attempts to get the Org to pay attention to the problem have been brushed off, despite ICANN making Universal Acceptance one of its key priorities.
Schwartz says ICANN is much more interested in UA when it comes to internationalized domain names (those in non-Latin scripts, such as Arabic or Chinese) and not the technical issues that underpin the functionality of all TLDs.
“I’ve no idea why ICANN makes the decisions it makes, but I think it has to do with inclusion, I think it has to do with diversity, I think it has to do with a lot of things — not technical,” he said. “But this is a technical issue.”
The post Is this why WhatsApp hates some TLDs but not others? first appeared on Domain Incite.