Signs of progress

Signs of progress for universal acceptance in 2017

In 2017 there has been significant progress in addressing the issue of display. Many browsers, web applications, social media tools and other Internet services can now display an IDN correctly. This success is not the result of dedicated labor by legions of applications developers. Instead, (as we have seen in previous years) it is the result of key, shared software libraries being gradually updated to support Unicode and UTF-8. Almost all modern browsers are able to display IDNs correctly when Unicode is specified as the content type in the communication from the server to the browser. This avoids the display of the Punycode version of the IDN which gives no benefit to the user and fails to support a multilingual environment.

Validation – the ability to accept that the IDN is a legitimate domain name – remains a critical problem in 2017. Many applications and services on the Internet attempt to validate or inspect domain names as they process those strings. This activity leads those applications to erroneously reject IDNs, especially in their native format. In 2017 we continue to see widespread use of out-of-date criteria for top-level domains and the use of outdated or non-authoritative lists of top-level domains. This is possibly one of the most challenging areas of UA for IDNs.

Many Internet applications are purpose-built for their particular requirement. Such applications often do not use shared software libraries. While the use of shared software libraries is not a guarantee of accurate validation, it can assist by correctly updating validation routines so that IDNs can be validated properly. Updating the shared software library makes all the applications that use those libraries work properly.

In 2017, we have seen improvements to desktop and mobile operating systems’ support for IDNs. This means that a larger group of DNS clients are now more aware of IDNs and how to handle them. In major operating systems – on both the desktop and in mobile environments – we have seen significant progress in processing and resolution of IDNs. Regrettably, when you move beyond traditional operating systems, there is little progress to report: processing and resolution of IDNs in non-traditional Internet applications and services are often not available or successful. As an example, it is all but impossible to find a commercial, Internet-connected baby monitor/camera that supports IDNs for access and system configuration.

Universal Acceptance Steering Group

IDN acceptance is part of a large initiative at the Universal Acceptance Steering Group. Formed in 2015, the UASG has gradually built a set of documents and reports on universal acceptance of all domain names and email addresses. This includes the ongoing rollout of new TLDs which started in 2013. This initiative is supported by ICANN, but is an independent, community-led activity. In addition, to outreach materials, UASG provide technical documentation and case studies at its website.  Also included is a facility for UA issue logging and tracking.

While standardisation for IDNs is complete, the IETF is continuing to work in this area including updates for the most recent version of Unicode and a proposed standard for best practices in registry operations.