Recent industry opinion data from the International Domain Name Report offers an interesting insight into the progress of IDNs through 2020 and offers clues as to where IDNs are heading. Each year a diverse group of IDN industry experts are asked several questions which probe their opinions on the current state of IDN progress. Then the IDN World report summarises their responses to collate data and visuals which show the conclusions and trends of the groups’ responses. These trends are important for better understanding IDNs and for solving the remaining obstacles which IDNs expansion faces today. Having a comprehensive grasp of IDN progress will enable IDN industry players, software companies and end users to make informed steps to achieving Universal Acceptance (UA). If Universal Acceptance were achieved it would ensure every person would have the ability to navigate and communicate on the Internet using their chosen language in domain names, email addresses and software applications which best align with their culture, interest, language, business and script. The IDN World Report continues to gather information on IDNs because IDNs are the cornerstone to a digitally inclusive internet.
One of the main findings this year concerns end users’ awareness of IDNs. Industry experts were asked how they would rate end users’ awareness of IDNs on a scale of 0 to 5 - zero being the lowest score and five being the highest score. Overall the 2020 responses concerning users’ awareness indicates improved confidence in users’ awareness of IDNs. In 2019 experts rated 12% of all end users had the lowest possible awareness of IDNs, whereas in 2020 no experts rated users’ awareness at zero. Again, in 2019, experts assessed 19% of users’ awareness had an awareness score of 1 but this low score was only attributed to 7% of users’ in the 2020 data. These two changes in scoring between 2019 and 2020 show experts are rating the lowest scores less to reflect end users’ awareness of IDNs. The growing confidence in end users’ awareness of IDNs is reinforced by the number 2 score growing from 32% to 52% between 2019 and 2020 and, lastly, in the same time frame the number 4 rating grew from 5% to 24%. An encouraging trend emerges when reviewing these results collectively, the data for 2020 shows experts are increasingly confident that end users are aware of IDNs.
Second, the IDN World Report has gathered feedback from experts’ opinions regarding how well IDNs are being supported by their registrars. Registrars are a key component in the technology supply chain for IDNs to successfully operate. Experts were again asked to score on a scale of 0 to 5 and the results overall show experts are giving higher scores in 2020 than the year prior. For example, the highest score (number 5) was only chosen by 4% of the experts in 2019 but this increased significantly to 18% in 2020. In fact, while 4% of experts gave a 0 score in 2019, no experts gave a 0 score to describe the support by registrars in 2020 which is another indicator of progress for IDNs and the IDN industry generally. These results are important because support from registrars is an essential component for the growth of IDNs’ use globally. While Universal Acceptance remains a challenge, in 2020, IDN experts are more positive about the support of IDNs by registrars.
The IDN World Report asked experts to select a single change they considered would have the greatest impact on the uptake of IDNs. This year’s results showed 64% voted for improved Universal Acceptance and 36% voted for improved end-user awareness of IDNs. Improved Universal Acceptance and improved end-user awareness are so intrinsically linked because their growth or shrinkage correlate with one another; user Awareness will increase as Universal Acceptance makes IDNs more seamlessly functional for end users and Universal Acceptance would be prompted to function better if more end users were aware of and started using IDNs. This feedback from 2020 on the state of IDNs given by industry experts’ opinions highlights the biggest issues facing IDN growth today.
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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