Across the Arab States, eight countries have deployed IDNs (Oman having deployed during 2013-2014). New gTLD IDNs have also come on to the market, including dotShabaka (شبكة (and .bazaar (بازار ). Even though Arab States have been active in advocating the implementation of IDNs at the top level, and at the cutting edge of early implementation of IDNs, experiences in the region have been mixed.
According to our figures, there are now 12 000 Arabic script IDNs in ccTLDs from the Arab States. This includes both fully internationalised (IDN.IDN) and hybrid (Arabic.ASCII) domain names (figure 36). While the numbers are low, the percentage growth rates are high, even allowing for shrinkage of some registries (the Iranian registry has not accepted new registrations for IDNs under .ir since 2010, and the number of registrations has halved since then).
For some years, it has been apparent that domain name registration volumes across the Arab States are not yet fulfilling their potential. For example, a review of IDNs by geographic regions (and gTLDs) shows that Arab States have only 0.2% of the world market. For this comparison we have included Islamic Republic of Iran with the Arab States because of its use of Arabic script.
The low uptake in domain name registrations in across the Arab States can partly be explained through our IDN Readiness Matrix. In some countries, such as United Arab Emirates and Qatar – despite progressive registry policies and excellent Internet infrastructure – the populations are low and extremely diverse (both countries have high levels of immigrant workers, and English is commonly spoken). Elsewhere, there are higher populations, greater linguistic homogeneity but other factors (for example strict registry policies, low instances of local language applications, no Internet Exchange Points) tend to inhibit mass uptake.
The case of Egypt is puzzling, especially as online populations are growing in numbers and vigour, and as there is thriving local language content. In Egypt, low volumes of domain name registrations (both under .eg where there are 9 000 registrations, and مصر (.contrast with mass adoption of Facebook (12 million Egyptian users), a large online population (44% of Egyptians are online), and the popularity of Arabic language content.
The potential for mass uptake in Egypt is high, and this is reflected in our IDN Readiness Matrix (figure 35). Indeed, for the region, Egypt is already market leader for IDN uptake despite only opening for landrush during 2013.
Emily Taylor is the CEO of Oxford Information Labs. She is an Associate Fellow of Chatham House and is the Editor of the Journal of Cyber Policy and co-founder of ICANN accredited registrar, Oxford Information Labs.
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