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‘Redirecting’ a domain name is a way of making the same web page available through more than one URL. Instead of resolving to a web page bearing the same domain name, a redirect will forward web traffic to a different destination.

There are many reasons why a domain name registrant may want to redirect a domain, for example to channel all web traffic to a single, authoritative web site, rather than maintaining multiple instances of the same site.

In previous years, we have found a higher rate of redirects in IDNs than for traditional ASCII domain names.  There is anecdotal evidence from the Russian ccTLD registry that domain registrants use IDNs in advertising materials and often redirect to ASCII domains. Advertising materials highlight names which are readily memorised by users, as they are in a language and script that is understood. Having multiple domains setup as redirects to the main website is a common practice, regardless of the script used in the domain name. This is a savvy use of IDN attributes as good predictors of language content and memorable to local language communities.  Using IDNs as redirects can be used as marketing tool to appeal local customers without requiring development work to reconfigure an established website. A new domain can be added to an existing portfolio and redirected to an existing website.  Meanwhile, the ASCII domain names continue to work more reliably in web browsers than their IDN counterparts.  

Of the 2.3 million IDNs in our sample, approximately 1.8 million are at the second level, and 500 000 at the top level.  In each case, the research team analysed whether a domain had an active website (“active”), redirected to another URL (“redirect”), had active name servers but timed out before we could obtain any information about active content (“timeout”) or was no in use (“not in use”).  We found a higher level of redirects in second level domains, 19%, compared with 4% redirects for top level IDNs.