The internet and domain name system were developed by Americans not realising the global force it would become today. Hence when domain names were thought of, the only characters thought of were those used in the English language – Latin characters.
In German, there were a few additional characters that weren’t included in usable characters. But this was nothing compared to languages such as those the report examined – Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Indic language groups – among many others.
For these languages, internet users often have to alternate keyboard layouts when typing in URLs in the Latin letters and numbers, switching from their own language to a Latin keyboard layout and then back to their own language. While this is only a minor hindrance, it assumes the internet users or potential internet users can recognise these characters. Many people cannot even recognise these Latin characters.
With many of the new top level domains (TLDs), particularly those new generic TLDs (gTLDs), that are not in Latin characters, there are problems in these characters being accepted when entering web and email addresses.
The cost of this to the global economy is potentially $9.8 billion according to a report commissioned by the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG). The report demonstrates the economic, social and cultural benefits of Universal Acceptance (UA) of domain names. It is also the key to unlocking the potential of the more than 1,200 new generic top level domains (gTLDs), some of which are in local scripts, to foster competition, consumer choice and innovation in the domain name industry.
The web and email problems arise when a user enters a domain name or related email address into an online form on a website and it is rejected. When this happens, it not only frustrates the user and reduces the opportunities for the organisation to win a new customer, but it also lessens the cultural, social and economic benefits made possible by the internet.
By better supporting these internationalised domain names, the report estimates an additional 17 million internet users could come online, and this is only based on the 5 previously mentioned language groups. These include users whose lack of local language services was previously a barrier to a complete online experience. The research shows that online spending from these new IDN users could start at $6.2 billion per year.
In addition, the report shows the potential increased revenues from existing gTLD users. According to one study, 13 percent of websites reject new domain names with more than 3 letters – when a simple update of these websites (effectively a “bug fix”) could increase online revenues by $3.6 billion per year as a result of Universal Acceptance.
This bug fix or routine update is not particularly onerous. And a little effort could mean a significant increase in users, and revenue.