IDNs in 2020: highlights of this year’s World Report
There has been a decline in the number of IDNs registered across the world. Registrations at the end of 2019 were 8.3 m compared with 9 m in 2018, an 8% drop. There are multiple reasons for this: a sharp decline in Korean IDNs (from 360 000 to 50 000); a loss of 100K IDNs in .xyz; and a general trend of slight losses in the number of IDNs across the board. As in previous years, access to data has been a challenge. The Chinese registry CNNIC ceased publishing or sharing registration data on its second level IDNs under .cn, and access to zone files through ICANN’s CZDS service can be problematic, leading to some major IDN zones not being reflected in this year’s figures.
The distribution of IDNs across the world continues to show a different pattern to that of traditional domain names, with the majority of IDNs being found in China (3.9 million), Russian Federation and Asia.
The majority of IDNs (60%) are found at the second level , and ccTLDs now comprise 80% of all IDNs. The .eu IDNs continue to be in the top 20 of second level IDN spaces.
Usage of IDNs - Universal acceptance remains a challenge
The usage of IDNs remains a problematic experience. Universal acceptance is the concept that all domain names including email addresses should work in all software applications and in every context that a traditional domain name is used. In order for devices and systems to be truly multilingual, they must accept, validate, store, process and display all domain names. Until Universal Acceptance is achieved, it is not possible to provide a consistent and positive experience for all Internet users.
Research commissioned by EURid in 2020 highlighted failures in the support of email address internationalization across major email providers. The lack of reliable functionality continues to affect the usage of IDNs. While 60% of second level IDNs have active name servers, only 37% of top level IDNs have active name servers. More than 80% of gTLD IDNs are parking pages.
Urgent action is required on the part of multiple actors to guarantee that speakers of all languages have the freedom to navigate the web, send and receive emails, login to popular platforms using domain names in their own language.
IDNs support online linguistic diversity
Where IDNs are in use, they continue to support online linguistic diversity. Four scripts, Han (60%), Latin, Cyrillic and Hangul represent 94% of all IDNs, but those scripts support a wide array of languages. Chinese, Russian, German, Korean and Japanese comprise a higher proportion of websites in the IDNs than are found in general web content. Moreover, the level of English language content for IDNs lower (10%) than is found in general web content (60%). IDN script accurately signals the language of web content, demonstrating the utility of domain names in general and IDNs in particular as an aid to navigation and comprehension. So, Arabic script IDNs are associated with content in Arabic and Persian, Cyrillic script with Russian, Bulgarian and Ukrainian web content, Han with Chinese, Han, Katakana and Hiragana with Japanese language content, Latin script with French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Czech, Turkish and others.
The low levels of Arabic script and language content in the web remain a concern, and are in stark contrast to the vibrant use of social media (and support of multiple languages across social media platforms).
2019 saw the launch of the .ευ in Greek script, creating a full complement of IDN supporting all 24 official languages of the European Union in their native scripts. Registrations of IDNs showed an upturn towards the end of 2019, coinciding with the launch of .ευ in November 2019.
Up to 76% of .eu IDNs are in active use, and support all European official languages. EURid continues to work closely with industry partners to support research and progress in achieving universal acceptance of IDNs. Research on email address internationalisation in 2020 suggests that some of the major email providers have not yet implemented the technical standard IDNA 2008, which is essential for the proper support of Greek script IDNs. EURid has opened a dialogue with leading providers to raise awareness of this issue.
We now have ten years of survey results from the ccTLD community, charting confidence in IDNs as a product. Overall, the average opinions on uptake, support by registrars and end-user awareness are recovering slightly from their lowest points but are no where near recovering to their highest levels. When asked what single change would make the most impact on uptake of IDNs, the most popular theme continues to be making progress on universal acceptance (45%).
New partner for the IDN World Report
The IDN World Report welcomes a new partner in 2020, the Russian ccTLD.RU which has been a leading IDN registry since its launch of .РФ. We also said goodbye to Verisign with thanks for its many years as a supporter of the IDN World Report.