Usage of IDNs

What is meant by usage?

When considering the usage rates of IDNs, it is important first to define what is meant by usage – is it the presence of active nameservers, or active web content? Measuring rates of usage for domain names is not as simple as it might appear.  There are several approaches, each with their advantages and shortcomings.  

Our analysis (described in more detail in the methodology) covers IDNs both at the second and top level, and shows that the presence of active name servers does not guarantee that a domain name has meaningful web content.  Overall, 55% of the IDNs in our data sample had active nameservers (a reduction of 2% since last year), and 39% resolved to web content (‘active web content’) with sufficient text for the research team to be able to identify the language (the same as last year).  

In order to build up a fuller picture of IDN ‘usage’, the research team therefore presents results of measurement of active name servers, active web content, and redirects.

Active nameservers

At the most basic level, a domain name needs to have active name servers in order to work.  So, a domain without active name servers is not capable of carrying any web content or supporting other services.  Measuring the rate of active name servers tends to overstate the usage, as there will be a proportion of domain names without content-related services (eg email or an active website). Therefore, analysis of active name server rates gives an idea of the potential for IDNs to be used.

Active web content

Another approach is to measure the number of IDNs where it is possible, through automated analysis, to identify that the domain resolves to web content (we call this ‘active web content’).  Measuring the rate of ‘active language’ tends to understate usage, as it will miss those domains where there is no website, or where there is too little content to measure language, or where there are active services such as email which are not visible on analysis of web content.  When we come to identify the language of web content, we find that more accurate results are achieved when we eliminate from the automated analysis sites with too little content.  This explains the differences in the overall numbers for ‘active web content’ and ‘language of web content’ analysis.


A sub-category of active websites, redirects show whether a domain name resolves to a different extension.  Redirects are often used to channel web traffic to an organisation’s primary website.  Therefore a high level of redirects would indicate that a TLD is not being used as a primary website.