‘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. If this is widespread, it would be a savvy user response to limitations in universal acceptance. Advertising materials highlight names which are readily memorised by users, as they are in a language and script that is understood. Meanwhile, the ASCII domain names continue to work more reliably in web browsers than their IDN counterparts.
Of the 2.4 million IDNs in our sample, approximately 2 million are at the second level, and 400 000 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 consistent level of redirects across both second and top level domains at 14% and 15% respectively, compared with 32% redirects last year. The results may have been influenced by differences in our methodology compared with last year’s study, in that we timed out after 5 seconds this year a shorter interval than in previous years.