Signs of progress

Signs of progress for universal acceptance in 2018

In 2017 there was significant progress in addressing the issue of display. Many browsers, web applications, social media tools and other Internet services can now display an IDN correctly. This success is not the result of dedicated labour by legions of applications developers. Instead, as we have seen in previous years, it is the result of key, shared software libraries being gradually updated to support Unicode and UTF-8. Almost all modern browsers are able to display IDNs correctly when Unicode is specified as the content type in the communication from the server to the browser. This avoids the display of the Punycode version of the IDN which gives no benefit to the user and fails to support a multilingual environment.

In 2018, the success of 2017 has become routine.  Except for niche browsers, or browsers in dedicated, bespoke systems (such as eBook readers or automobiles), web browsers, their extensions and plugins are now able to use and display IDNs properly. This is a hard-won success, but it is only a single accomplishment in an Internet which has an astonishingly large number of services and applications. The success of browsers in handling IDNs is not the end of the story for Universal Acceptance.

Validation – the ability to accept that the IDN is a legitimate domain name – remains a critical problem in 2018. Many applications and services on the Internet attempt to validate or inspect domain names as they process those strings. This activity leads those applications to erroneously reject IDNs, especially in their native format. In 2018 we continue to see widespread use of out-of-date criteria for top-level domains and the use of outdated or non-authoritative lists of top-level domains. This the most challenging area of universal acceptance for IDNs.

Many Internet applications are purpose-built for their particular requirement. Such applications often do not use shared software libraries. While the use of shared software libraries is not a guarantee of accurate validation, it can assist by correctly updating validation routines so that IDNs can be validated properly. Updating the shared software library makes all the applications that use those libraries work properly.

The two most popular operating systems for mobile/portable devices, iOS and Android, have excellent support for IDNs built-in to their development tools.  Software developers who use those tools automatically benefit from the ability to support IDNs without any additional effort. During 2018 we have also seen IDN-compliant tools added to other software development frameworks and application environments.  The use of these not only benefits application designers, but eventually makes IDN universal acceptance a more common part of the daily use of the Internet.

In 2018, we have continued to see improvements to desktop and mobile operating systems’ support for IDNs. This means that a larger group of DNS clients are now more aware of IDNs and how to handle them. In major operating systems – on both the desktop and in mobile environments – we have seen significant progress in processing and resolution of IDNs. Regrettably, when you move beyond traditional operating systems, there is little progress to report in 2018: processing and resolution of IDNs in non-traditional Internet applications and services are often not available or successful. As an example, it is all but impossible to find a commercial, Internet-connected baby monitor/camera that supports IDNs for access and system configuration.