So apparently emoji domains are a thing, though a complicated one at that. I blame equal parts boredom and Bud Hunt (a very persuasive individual) for registering one last night. Here's the skinny on the how and why.
First, how do you even do this? Well emoji can be rendered in a browser in what's called "Punycode". So in fact when you type the URL 🔎💾.ws in what you actually get is http://xn--6s8h5e.ws/. That's the domain I actually registered, it just happens to render as emoji and work (though not everywhere!). Turns out .ws is one of very few (perhaps only?) top level domain registrars that will support these characters in a domain name, so forget getting your 💩.com on. I tried to register the domain via our own registrar interface at Reclaim Hosting first, our billing system balked at it. Ok, how about Namecheap? "Kindly be informed that, unfortunately, we do not support the registration of IDN domains for .ws extension." Last stop by way of a few tutorials out there was http://iwantmyname.com/ and although there was a hiccup in the ordering process their support fixed it up and I had my own domain.
Adding it to my existing cPanel account was as easy as adding it as an Addon Domain (keep in mind still using the Punycode format that has the domain as actual text). Then I was free to host whatever I wanted on there. I decided I fun URL shortener would be a good idea (get it, "search and save"....). As it so happens YOURLS is available as a one-click install on Reclaim Hosting, think of it kind of like running your own bit.ly. So I set that up and then parked a standard landing page on the main domain using cPanel's Site Publisher feature. Done and Done.
Why do this? I can think of a lot of reasons not to actually! There's poor support for it, most of the time these links aren't even clickable. Slack breaks them by converting the emoji to their markup format :magright::floppydisk:.ws. Facebook you can't click them but copy/paste works. Twitter surprisingly works out of the box. But these are also hard to type, and essentially it's just redirecting/rending a different URL anyway. I guess why I wanted to do this was to explore some of the limits of what's possible. And in truth Bud made a great point on Twitter, at what moments in history do we get a chance to play with a brand new language when its still somewhat nascent? Doing that at the very intersection of the domain/hosting business I find myself a part of is all the more reason to experiment and play.
Do I trust this domain will live forever? Not really, which probably makes using it as a link shortener a really bad idea. But for now it's a fun thing to play around with and I can say I got in on the ground floor (well maybe the lower levels at least) of the right-facing magnifier/floppy disk domain empire. Here's to more silly experiments!