Country Case Study
DENIC, a private non-profit organisation established in 1996 and headquartered in Frankfurt, is one of the largest ccTLDs in the world (and by some way the largest of the EU registries), with more than 15 million registrations.
DENIC operates as a cooperative. It has 320 members who are domain name registrars. According to the organisation’s bylaws, a certain percentage of profits are retained for investment, and any surplus is returned to the members. The majority of members are based in Germany. DENIC’s operations are focused principally on domain name registration.
In 2004, DENIC began offering IDNs (Latin script only) at the second level under .de. At their peak, there were 648 000 IDNs under .de; as at December 2014, there were 630 000. The fall in numbers is partly in line with overall trends, and may also have been affected by a giveaway or price promotion. For a few months in 2013, IDN numbers were increasing at a higher than usual rate, and one year later the same number were deleted. For example, in August 2013 there were 12 000 new registrations, and in July 2014 there were 11 000 deletions. This is consistent with poor renewal rates on giveaways or aggressive price promotions.
DENIC notes that universal acceptance issues are likely to affect uptake. Web browsers do not support the sharp “s” (ß). DENIC has tried to get the big web browsers interested in supporting this character but without success. “They don’t answer”, according to DENIC. It means that the percentage of IDNs is steadily declining compared to overall registrations under .de, because ß is one of the most commonly used characters in German language. The registry’s perception is that there are no drivers in the wider market to improve IDNs.
At the user level, DENIC believes that Germans are now accustomed to normal domains, and used to seeing words like “straße” written as “strasse”. “They no longer perceive any error”, according to DENIC, “You even see advertisements in Germany now using the double ‘ss’ rather than the ‘ß’.”