IDNs can help bring nations, and languages, to the Internet, but only if we let them.
The IDN World Report 2015, written by OXIL Director of Research Emily Taylor and published in collaboration with EURid, UNESCO and Verisign, examines the status of IDNs as drivers of multilingualism and diversity in cyberspace.
It focuses on the European Union, the uptake of .eu IDNs, and the regional correlations between languages spoken and IDN script. It was presented at the European Parliament on December 10, 2015.
Download the full report here.
This year’s report found that uptake of IDNs remains proportionally sluggish, with multilingual domain names accounting for 3% (6.2 million) of all domain names worldwide. Latin script is most popular in second-level IDNs, but within full (top level) domains Cyrillic and Han scripts account for 95% of new registrations.
Analysis shows that universal acceptance is still the chief obstacle to IDN growth – ASCII domains are more or less the default option – along with inconsistent support for IDNs from registrars and low awareness among end-users.
But in its modelling of language content for all IDNs (ccTLDs as well as gTLDs), the Report found far greater linguistic diversity in those sites than in the web content for ASCII domains. There is also a very strong correlation between languages spoken in the region or country and the IDN script used.
It may seem self-evident that an IDN in Han script should have significant Chinese content. But what it shows us is that different language-cultures readily build content, and a multilingual Internet, where the opportunity to do so is perceived to exist – the perception being the problem.
In Europe, home to 34% of the world’s IDNs, ccTLDs tend to deploy IDN scripts that match the requirements of local languages. But, as some registry managers observe, users have become accustomed to workarounds for special characters (“ue” instead of “ü” in German, “n” instead of “ñ” in Spanish).
This highlights the impact of poor universal acceptance: users will work around IDNs if they have a choice, by adopting ASCII domains instead. Because they know they work.