An introduction to IDNs

The Internet has rapidly become integrated into our lives. In 2006, we marvelled that 1 billion people were now online. In 2017, nearly 4 billion people have access to the Internet.

Whereas the Internet is now near ubiquitous in North America and Europe, rates of Internet penetration are still below 50% in many parts of the global south. The next billions of Internet users will not be as familiar with Latin script and English language as their predecessors. Those next billions of Internet users require an Internet addressing system that meets their needs – memorable domain names, which support languages they speak and understanding.  Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) offer that opportunity.

The IDN World Report is a multi-year research project by EURid and UNESCO with the support of Verisign and the regional country code domain name organisations. We have been monitoring the growth and development of IDNs since 2009.  You can explore the findings through a text report, infographics, videos, interactive charts and maps.

Highlights from this year’s IDN World Report

As at December 2016, 8.7 million IDNs were registered, a growth rate of 28% since December 2015. IDNs now comprise 3% of the world’s domains. These figures include IDNs across both ccTLDs and gTLDs, both at the first and second level. The spike in growth was significantly affected by second level registrations under the Chinese ccTLD, .cn, which grew by more than 400% during the year.  Discounting the contribution of .cn, the underlying growth rate during 2016 was 4%, less than the previous year’s growth rate of 9%.

Distribution patterns of IDN registrations are different from those of traditional, ASCII domain names.  IDN registrations are highest in Asia and Pacific region.  The script of IDNs registered throughout the world strongly correlate to the languages spoken in different countries and territories.

The IDN World Report research team each year examines the language of websites associated with IDNs, and based on the evidence we draw the following conclusions:

The major challenge to mass uptake of IDNs continues to be their poor usability: in email, online user identifiers, and even in browsers, applications and devices including Internet of Things.  Progress is slow and not enough priority is being afforded to overcome this challenge, despite signs of progress. Urgent action is required by all stakeholders including policy makers, manufacturers and software vendors.

EURid first launched IDNs in 2009 at the second level under .eu in the scripts essential for supporting the EU’s 24 official languages: Latin, Greek and Cyrillic.  In 2016, EURid began to offer IDNs in Cyrillic script under .ею.  At the close of 2016, there were 45 000 IDNs managed by EURid, of which 43 000 were at the second level under .eu, and 2 000 under .ею.  IDNs under .eu and .ею have comparatively high rates of active usage, and the script of domain name is a reliable signal of multilingual web content.

In this short introductory video, Giovanni Seppia, External Relations Manager of EURid introduces this website.