This report has demonstrated that there is a clear link between IDN script and the language of web content, and highlighted the clear benefits to individuals of being able to read and understand domain names in their native languages. It has also highlighted that there are significant challenges to using IDNs (universal acceptance), which are evident in the responses to our industry questionnaire. Although progress is steadily being made, these challenges go to the core of IDNs’ functionality, have inhibited uptake, and will likely continue to do so in future unless addressed.

Therefore, it seems that IDNs have the potential to foster and signal the presence of multilingual online content, but IDNs are currently underachieving compared with their potential. We believe that, given the strong linkages which we have shown between IDNs and language of content, that underachievement poses a risk to the successful migration towards a truly multilingual Internet.

It is clear that IDNs in some countries or territories are doing better than in others. In an effort to understand why this might be, we started to gather information about local conditions through country case studies. Over the past three years, we have developed case studies for nine countries that have implemented IDNs at the top level: Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates and Islamic Republic of Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Republic of Korea, China, Viet Nam.

The country case studies were made possible through the generous collaboration of ccTLD registry staff in the countries.

The countries were selected because, unlike many of the European ccTLDs which operate primarily in Latin script and use IDNs to represent special characters (eg é, ç, ö, å, ø), the countries of the case studies are not well served by the mixed script, hybrid IDNs. The exception is Viet Nam, which uses Latin script, but has been included because of its extraordinary experiences in implementing IDNs.

The ccTLD registries in the countries have played an active role in advocating the adoption of IDNs at the top level, and have been first movers in rolling out fully internationalised domain names.

Previously published in World Report on Internationalised Domain Names, 2014