Possibly the only internet users that are able to properly navigate the internet in their own language are English users. From European languages such as French and German to the Cyrillic languages such as Russian and to Arabic and Chinese to name but a few, there are best a few characters that have historically not been able to be used to entire languages that could not be used.
Imagine being a young man or woman whose only language is Arabic or Chinese. They’re confronted with an internet that requires domain names to have been read in an English script. The characters would be as foreign to them as Arabic or Chinese is to the average person who is not of an Arabic background or from China.
The move to a truly accessible internet has been a work in progress for many years, with the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG), a group made up of ICANN community members as well as non-ICANN community experts, undertaking a number of activities to push for this internet that is accessible to all.
The latest of these activities is the publication of a new study from the UASG that reveals a potential $9.8 billion growth opportunity in online revenue through a routine update to internet systems, including those for speakers of languages that do not use the English script.
The report from technology consulting and research firm Analysys Mason was commissioned by the UASG and clearly demonstrates the economic, social and cultural benefits of Universal Acceptance (UA) of domain names.
Universal Acceptance is a foundational requirement for a truly multilingual internet, one in which users around the world can navigate entirely in local languages. It is also the key to unlocking the potential of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to foster competition, consumer choice and innovation in the domain name industry.
The Domain Name System (DNS) has expanded dramatically and now includes more than 1,200 gTLDs. Many of those top level domains are longer than the legacy three-character domain name (e.g. .com, .edu and .org) or are in non-Latin based scripts (such as Chinese, Arabic or Cyrillic).
People can now choose a domain name that best reflects their sense of identity and language, although many online systems do not recognise these domain names as valid. For example, problems may 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.
“To excel in the long run, organisations should seize the opportunity – and responsibility – to ensure that their systems work with the common infrastructure of the internet – the domain name system,” said Ram Mohan, Chair of UASG. “Universal Acceptance unlocks a significant economic opportunity and provides a gateway to the next billion internet users by ensuring a consistent and positive experience for internet users globally. Additionally, governments and NGOs will be better able to serve their citizens and constituencies if they adopt Universal Acceptance.”
The newly released, independent research conservatively estimates that support for Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs, which allow domain names in all of the world’s languages) could bring 17 million new users online. These include users whose lack of local language services was previously a barrier to a complete online experience.
The report’s estimate is based on the examination of just five major languages and language groups that would benefit from IDNs because they use non-Latin scripts (Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Indic language groups) and the proportion of non-internet users for whom a lack of local language services is a barrier. 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 three 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. Combined, there is a potential $9.8 billion annual opportunity stemming from software systems working in harmony with the common internet infrastructure. This is also a conservative metric as this figure does not take into account potential future growth in e-commerce spend, or in the registrations of new domains.
“Our analysis shows that the main impediment to Universal Acceptance is a lack of awareness of the issue, rather than any technical challenges,” said Andrew Kloeden, Principal at Analysys Mason. “This is not a heavy lift. The efforts required by software and application owners to implement UA are not particularly onerous; in fact most companies treat UA issues simply as ‘bug fixes.’”
Organisations worldwide have made significant progress toward Universal Acceptance, although there is still more work to be done. Case studies in the report show that many large global companies – such as Adobe, Verizon, Wells Fargo and Twitter, among others – have made needed changes to make their customer-facing systems UA-ready. However, the process is not complete, and many applications still do not accept the new domains. Universal Acceptance has progressed less for IDNs than for gTLDs.
To learn more and view the report in full, see uasg.tech/whitepaper.