Looking at the data over the last three years gives an interesting insight into the world of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) and their popularity. After a clear drop in registration from 2018 - 2019, IDs seem to be stabilizing over the 2020 period. After the dip of almost 1 million, numbers for 2020 show 8.2 million registered IDNs.
When drilling down into that further and looking at IDN Growth by Level, the numbers illustrate the stabilization of the registrations. A Top Level Domain (TLD) is the section of the domain name that is to the left of the dot and Second Level Domain (SLDs) is the section to the right of the dot. SLDs have seen a slight levelling off while still in a slight decline from 2019 - 2020. Whereas TLDs have seen a slight increase from 2019 – 2020. The number of TLDs remain lower than the number of SLDs but they are levelling out together with the number of IDNs on the Second Level Domain reaching around 4.9 million and Top Level Domains reaching 3.4 million by June 2020.
The trend continues to show the levelling off of IDNs by Type showing that gTLDs have levelled off having gone from 2 million registered gTLDs in 2018, dipping to 1.6 million in 2019 and only a very slight increase to 1.7 million registered gTLDs. The number of ccTLDs registered are much higher than gTLDs with numbers of registered ccTLDs having gone from 7 million in 2018, to 6.6 million in 2019 and, in accordance with the data generally in 2020, it levels off at 6.6 million.
The top 10 Top Level IDN registries have not varied too much with the top level IDN continuing to be .中国 at 1.7 million which is by far the most registered top level IDN.The biggest change since 2019 has been an increase in the amount of take up of рус which was 26.3k in 2019 at the 9th most registered top level IDN and increased to the 7th most registered top level IDN with 34.8k.
When looking at the top 20 Second Level IDNs,.eu once again appears in the list of the largest second level IDN spaces. Overall, there has been little change to the main picture of second level IDNs since 2019. The only notable change seems to be for .KR (South Korea) which shows 52.1k uptake in 2019 at position 11 of the top 20 second level IDNs and in 2020 dropped to position 20 at 21.4k registrations.
This very limited variation generally seems to represent the picture with a stabilization having dropped very rapidly in 2018. With the general trend of IDNs being registered becoming less popular over time, the future of IDNs remains to be a challenging one.
The most used script within IDNs continues to be in Han script followed by Latin and then Cyrillic with the script of the web content usually being the script of the IDN. This is reflective of the geographical locations that the Domain is based in. With IDNs, the web content is more linguistically diverse.
There remains to be a great deal of IDNs ‘parking’ as with any domains based on low quality websites. The use of IDNs has been declining, with English still being the main language used. There remains to be a challenge for Universal Acceptance of IDNs but with the data stabilising, this could signal an important moment for IDNs.
Note that the data is collated according to the ‘methodology’ each year, which combines the open zone file data relating to gTLDs, with questionnaires gathered from individual ccTLDs through the regional organisations and direct contact. Apparent changes in IDN numbers may be a result of missing data as noted in the methodology.
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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