Usage of IDNs

When considering the usage rates of IDNs, it is important first to define what is meant by usage – is it the presence of active nameservers, or active web content? 

Our analysis shows that the presence of active nameservers does not guarantee that a domain name has meaningful web content.  Overall, 51% of the IDNs in our data sample had active nameservers, and 37% resolved to web content (‘active web content’).  Based on our sample of gTLDs and .eu IDNs, top level IDN gTLDs are less likely to have active web content than are second level IDNs.

What is meant by usage?

Measuring rates of usage for domain names is not as simple as it might appear.  There are several approaches, each with their advantages and shortcomings.  

In order to build up a fuller picture of IDN ‘usage’, the research team therefore presents results of measurement of active nameservers, active web content, and redirects.

Active nameservers

At the most basic level, a domain name needs to have active nameservers in order to work.  So, a domain without active nameservers is not capable of carrying any web content.  Measuring the rate of active nameservers tends to overstate the usage, as there will be a proportion of domain names without content-related services (eg email or an active website). Therefore, analysis of active nameserver rates gives an idea of the potential for IDNs to be used.

Active web content

Another approach is to measure the number of IDNs where it is possible, through automated analysis, to identify that the domain resolves to web content (we call this ‘active web content’).  Measuring the rate of ‘active language’ tends to understate usage, as it will miss those domains where there is no website, or where there is too little content to measure language, or where there are active services such as email which are not visible on analysis of web content.  When we come to identify the language of web content, we find that more accurate results are achieved when we eliminate from the automated analysis sites with too little content.  This explains the differences in the overall numbers for ‘active web content’ and ‘language of web content’ analysis.

Redirects

A sub-category of active websites, redirects show whether a domain name resolves to a different location.  Redirects are often used to channel web traffic to an organisation’s primary website.  Therefore a high level of redirects would indicate that a TLD is not being used as a primary website.