The world economy is “conservatively” losing out on almost $10 billion of annual revenue due to a lack of support for new gTLDs and internationalized domain names, according to an ICANN-commissioned research report.
The report, conducted by Analysys Mason for the semi-independent Universal Acceptance Steering Group, calculated that patchy new gTLD support means $3.6 billion of activity is lost, with lack of IDN support costing $6.2 billion.
Despite “new” gTLDs being around for a decade and a half, there are still plenty of web sites and apps that incorrectly assume that all TLDs are either two or three characters. Others don’t support non-Latin scripts.
This leads to internet users abandoning transactions, the report says, when their email addresses are rejected as invalid.
Mason calculated the $3.6 billion number by multiplying the estimated number of email addresses using new gTLD domains (152 million) by the estimated average annual revenue generated per email address ($360), then calculating what portion of these transactions cannot happen due to incomplete TLD support.
Earlier research by .CLUB Domains suggests that 13% of sites do not support new gTLDs, so that’s the number Mason used. The researchers then cut the number in half, to account for the 50% of people it reckons would simply switch to an email address in a legacy TLD name.
That gets you to $3.6 billion of potential revenue lost for want of gTLD support.
Another, more cynical way to spin this would be to say that new gTLDs are causing $3.6 billion of economic damage. After all, if everyone were to use legacy TLDs there would be no problem.
For the IDN number, Mason calculated how many users of five major language groups (Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Indian languages) are not currently online, then estimated how much revenue would be generated if just 5% of these users (17 million people) were persuaded online by the existences of IDN TLDs.
The report was commissioned in order to raise awareness of the financial benefits of universal acceptance.
The UASG has spent most of its efforts so far focusing on UA as a “bug fix” to be communicated to engineers, so the report is intended to broaden its message to catch the attention of the money people too.
The report, which goes into much more detail about how the numbers were arrived at, can be downloaded here.
A little over a year into the live phase of the new gTLD program, a group of domain industry companies are getting together to make sure the expansion is supported across the whole internet.
A new Universal Acceptance Steering Group has formed, with the support of ICANN and the Domain Name Association, to help fix many of the compatibility problems facing new gTLD registrants today.
“The basic problem is that these new types of domains and email addresses just break stuff,” Google’s Brent London said during a UASG meeting at the ICANN meeting in Singapore last week.
“You try to use an internationalized domain or a long new gTLD, or even a short new gTLD, or certainly an internationalized email address and you’re likely to run into problems,” he said. “What we’re doing is going around asking developers to make their products work.”
Universal acceptance is a long-understood problem. Even 15 years after the approval of .info there are still web sites that validate email addresses by ensuring the TLD is no longer than three characters in length.
But the 2012 new gTLD round has brought the issue into sharper focus, particularly given the introduction of internationalized domain names, IDNs, which use non-Latin scripts.
Over the last year we’ve seen scattered examples of popular software — including browsers, instant messaging and social media apps — not recognizing new gTLD domains as domains. The problems I’ve seen are usually fixed quite quickly.
While I’ve not seen any deal-breakers that would prevent me registering a new gTLD domain, I gather that IDN email addresses are often basically unusable, due to the chain of dependencies involved in sending an email.
In my experience as a programmer, supporting all TLDs is not a particularly challenging problem when you’re coding something afresh.
However, when bad practices have been coded in to large, sprawling, interdependent systems over decades, it could be likened to the Y2K problem — the so-called Millennium Bug that caused developer headaches worldwide at the end of the last century.
There’s also a tonne of bad advice on the web, with coders telling other coders to validate domains in ways that do not support an expanding root.
UASG members think the problem is large-scale and that it’s a long-term project — 10 years or more — to fix it satisfactorily.
Members include Donuts, Google, Microsoft, Go Daddy and Afilias.
The DNA has started creating a repository of information for developers, with the aim of describing the problem in plain English and providing code samples. Along with other UASG members, there’s a plan to conduct outreach to make more people aware of the acceptance issue.
You can check out the repository in its unfinished state here.
ICANN is getting involved in a coordination role. After the UASG’s inaugural meeting in Washington DC a few weeks ago, ICANN hosted a session during ICANN 52.