The Russian Federation ccTLD operator, the Coordination Centre for TLD RU, is a not-for-profit company established in 2001. Following its foundation, the domain name registration system was substantially reorganised, and new accreditation processes introduced. In 2010, the Coordination Centre was delegated the Cyrillic IDN for the Russian Federation, .рф.
In terms of volumes, the Russian Federation IDN TLD, .рф, remains the most successful of IDN experiences to date. When the landrush for .рф was opened in November 2010, 600 000 domains were registered in a single month. Each year, on the anniversary of launch, the landrush renewals phenomenon is felt, but each year the ripples diminish and the impact is lessened. Overall registrations continued at a healthy rate, with 811 000 .рф domains at December 2013, a net growth of 3.9% since the previous December.
Renewal rates of .рф domain names increased to 68% (from 61% during 2012). Renewal rates are seen in the industry as a long term measure of the value of a TLD to its users. While new registration rates may be distorted either through price promotions or speculation, renewal rates are tend to be linked to patterns of usage.
According to Statdom.ru, in December 2013 76% of .рф domains are delegated (ie capable of being used) up by 2% on the previous year. This still lags behind the delegation rate of over 90% in .ru. Statdom also analyses the usage of .ru and .рф domains. In spite of the continuing challenges of using IDNs, overall usage of .рф domains has increased from 42% (December 2011) to 50% (2013). While usage rates are below those see in the ASCII .ru (69% in use), progress is encouraging.
The number of redirects is also increasing year on year, to 11% in 2013. This is above the level of redirects in the ASCII .ru (6% in 2013). IDN рф domains are increasingly being used in advertising, according to ccTLD.RU. When typed into a browser, the Cyrillic domain names redirect to an ASCII domain. In this way, it appears that the Russian market may be adapting to capture the marketing benefits of memorable, local script domain names, while using redirects to work around the currently unsatisfactory user experience of IDNs. For example, the photograph of the green and white van (below) belongs to «ГрузовичкоФ» a cargo transportation company. The domain name the domain name грузовичкоф.рф advertised on the van redirects to http://www.gruzovichkof.ru/.
The user experience of Cyrillic domain names
Last year, the Russian registry reported that search engines were not prioritising Cyrillic URLs in their indexation. There has been an improvement in the last 12 months. Yandex, the most popular search provider in Russian Federation, now offers IDN search results. For example, in the image below, the domain name shown on the red and white van is многомебели. рф. «Много мебели» means “a lot of furniture” in Russian, and is the name of a furniture manufacturing with a chain of retail stores. The domain name in this case does not redirect, and appears in the first page of search results through Yandex.
The Russian registry has continued its tireless advocacy for IDNs during 2013:
- The registry has also written to Facebook to request that it updates its software to recognise Cyrillic websites. Facebook now does support links to IDN websites.
- It has had mixed success with Apple, whose iPhones carry a “.com” button. Following a request from the Russian registry, an IDN button was also included. However, this unfortunately disappeared in the next software release!
The Russian registry continues to report email as problematic for Cyrillic domains. The largest email portals are able to support sending email through their web pages. Unfortunately, webservers will not deliver the email. So, end to end the email sending is still unsatisfactory. However, it is reported the Mail.RU (a major webmail service provider) now supports IDN on the right of the @ sign (eg [email protected]) but does not support [email protected] , i.e. [email protected] is not permitted.
ccTLD.RU identifies the biggest barrier to uptake of IDNs is lack of email functionality. If email were solved, the next issue is the keyboard. The @ sign is not a Russian character, requiring users to switch between Cyrillic and Latin keyboards when typing an email.
Previously published in World Report on Internationalised Domain Names, 2014