Universal acceptance (UA) for IDNs means that they can be used anywhere that a traditional, ASCII domain name is used.  In applications, for instance social media environments, this remains a profound problem.

A study earlier in 2019, carried out by ICANN’s Universal Acceptance Steering Group and Associação Brasileira das Empresas de Software, looked at 100 of the Alexa top-1,000 websites and found that only 8% of the sites allowed users to use internationalised email addresses (EAI) in fields that require an email address to be filled in.

A key finding from their work is the observation that the World Wide Web Consortium’s HTML5 tag for processing and labelling such text, <input type=”email”> is not EAI compliant. That is a remarkable and inexplicable oversight, since EAI precedes the standardisation of HTML version 5 by many years.

Our own research this year indicates no improvement over our previous findings.  There are no new sites in our research list that support internationalised email addresses in fields that require an email address to be filled in.  We also have conducted research on web pages where the email address is not being used as an account identifier or user name.  In these cases, the results for universal acceptance remain profoundly disappointing.  There is simply no measurable progress being made in getting applications designers to routinely accept EAI in fields that require email addresses.

The situation is not confined to applications developed by small software firms who have few resources.  Our research list includes Facebook, Paypal and others who should have both the resources and motivation to support internationalisation.  One of the major dilemmas continues to be that applications and software tools make assumptions about domain names and email addresses. In previous years we have seen that one of the great challenges facing universal acceptance of IDNs is ensuring that the hardcoded assumptions built into applications don’t create barriers to the use of IDNs and EAI addresses. As in previous years, this remains an enormous challenge.

We also note that, despite continued efforts at outreach to developers, enterprises and solution builders, the problem remains at the same statistical level as three years ago. It is unfortunate that the international Internet community now has two independent studies that have found the same result.

There is a final downside to not making progress on universal acceptance in applications. As the number of devices – the Internet of Things – connected to the Internet becomes ever larger, the pressure to control, deploy, update and retrieve information from those devices will be intense. Using the DNS to identify some of those devices will be the best choice in some deployments. Without universal acceptance, internationalisation of the infrastructure of the Internet of Things will be far more difficult.