IDNs and Applications

For IDNs to be universally accepted, they must be able to be used anywhere a traditional domain name is used. However, many web applications and software tools make assumptions about domain names and email addresses. In previous years we have seen that one of the great challenges facing universal acceptance of IDNs is ensuring that the hardcoded assumptions built into applications don’t create barriers to the use of IDNs and EAI addresses. As in previous years, this remains an enormous challenge.

In previous years of our survey we have identified two key success factors for web-based applications and IDNs: the service should support IDNs as they would any other URL; and secondly, it should be possible to create user accounts with IDN email addresses.

First, the service should support IDNs just as they would any other URL that would appear in their services.  For instance, in comments and requests in a web forum or in comments in a review on Amazon or iTunes, IDNs should be supported, in the same way, as traditional domain names.  In a social network, an IDN should be able to appear and be used, in the same way, as any URL created from a traditional domain name.  In addition, modern software often allows a user to automatically create a hyperlink by typing something that appears to be a web address, URL, email address or network path.  For instance, typing into an email message might automatically generate a clickable link. This feature, sometimes called “linkification,” should work with any domain name or email address – including ones build on IDNs.

One of the few bright spots for IDN Universal Acceptance is in the use of IDNs as content.  If an application or service displays a URL, it should recognize that it is a link to an external resource and do the expected action when the text is clicked upon.  When IDNs appear as part of a web page, they should display and function in the way that any URL.  Also, web pages that have IDNs as “content” should handle the URL appropriately.

This improvement in Universal Acceptance is significant.  Three years ago 92.3% of the sites we tested did not recognize IDNs in the same way as ASCII URLs. Two years ago there was significant improvement: the number was down to 54.6%.  Last year, the number of sites we tested that did not handle IDNs correctly in “content” was down to 45.0%.  This year, the number of failures has dropped to 38.7%. This is the area of greatest improvement in Universal Acceptance for IDNs.