Languages on the move in the Internet landscape

« Back to the news page

Istanbul, 3 September 2014 - “Only by pursuing a policy of multilingualism in Internet access can we give effect to our policy of an Internet that is truly global, and truly accessible to all,” states European Commission Vice-President, Neelie Kroes, in the foreword of the IDN World Report 2014 produced by EURid with UNESCO in cooperation with Verisign and the country code Top Level Domain regional organisations (CENTR, LACTLD, APTLD and AFTLD).

The annual report is being presented today during a workshop at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, which takes place from 2 to 5 September.

Internationalised domain names (IDN) were first launched at the second level (eg παράδειγμα.eu) in 2000. From 2009, it became possible to register domain names entirely in non-Latin scripts (eg 例子.中国). At the end of 2013, there were 6 million IDNs (including second level names and IDN TLDs). Although this is a large number, it is just 2% of the world’s registered domain names (270 million).

EURid, the registry manager of the .eu Top Level Domain, has been supporting IDNs at the second level since late 2009 and has applied for the .eu in Greek and Cyrillic to ensure that the EU citizens can enjoy a complete IDN experience when writing languages that are not based on the Latin alphabet. “We are proud to have supported multilingualism through IDNs since the very beginning and to offer an extended customer support in all 24 official EU languages and, hopefully in the near future, the .eu TLD in Greek and Cyrillic,” commented EURid’s External Relations manager Giovanni Seppia.

The report contains evidence that shows that, far from being “internationalised”, IDNs are intensely localised. They are strongly linked to local language content, and although they occur in diverse writing systems, the location of such scripts is closely coupled to countries and regions where related languages are spoken.

New gTLDs promised to fulfil unmet needs in the domain name system. One obvious need is for enhanced linguistic diversity. With 90% of new gTLD strings (eg .photogra- phy) either in English language, or understandable in English, that opportunity has been lost – for now.

“The growth potential for Internet penetration is in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Latin America where English is not the primary language. For IDNs to fulfill their potential, multiple actors need to make changes to hasten universal acceptance, so that IDNs can be used seamlessly in every environment,” concludes the report’s main author Emily Taylor.

Download the report