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New gTLDs still a crappy choice for email — study

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2017, Domain Tech

New gTLDs may not be the best choice of domain for a primary email address, judging by new research.

Over 20% of the most-popular web sites do not fully understand email addresses containing long TLDs, and Arabic email addresses are supported by fewer than one in 10 sites, a study by the Universal Acceptance Steering Group has found.

Twitter, IBM and the Financial Times are among those sites highlighted as having only partial support for today’s wide variety of possible email addresses.

Only 7% of the sites tested were able to support all types of email address.

The study, carried out by Donuts and ICANN staff, looked at 749 websites (in the top 1,000 or so as ranked by Alexa) that have forms for filling in email addresses.

On each site, seven different email addresses were input, to see whether the site would accept them as valid.

The emails used different combinations of ASCII and Unicode before the dot and mixes of internationalized domain name and ASCII at the second and top levels.

These were the results (click to enlarge or download the PDF of the report here):

IDN emails

The problem with these numbers, it seems to me, is the lack of a control. There’s no real baseline to judge the numbers against.

There’s no mention in the paper about testing addresses that use .com or decades-old ccTLDs, which would have highlighted web sites that with broken scripts that reject all emails.

But if we assume, as the paper appears to, that all the tested web sites were 100% compliant for .com domains, the scores for new gTLDs are not great.

There are currently over 800 TLDs over four characters in length, but according to the UASG research 22% of web sites will not recognize them.

There are 150 IDN TLDs, but a maximum of 30% of sites will accept them in email addresses.

When it comes to right-to-left scripts, such as Arabic, the vast majority of sites are totally hopeless.

UASG dug into the code of the tested sites when it could and found that most of them use client-side code — JavaScript processing a regular expression — to verify addresses.

A regular expression is complex bit of code that can look something like this: /^.+@(?:[^.]+\.)+(?:[^.]{2,})$

It’s not every coder’s cup of tea, but it can get the job done with minimal client-side resource overheads. Most coders, the UASG concludes, copy regex they found on a forum and maybe tweak it a bit.

This should not be shocking news to anyone. I’ve known about it since 2009 or earlier when I first started ripping code from StackOverflow.

However, the UASG seems to be have been working on the assumption that more sites are using off-the-shelf software libraries, which would have allowed the problem to be fixed in a more centralized fashion.

It concludes in its paper that much greater “awareness raising” needs to happen before universal acceptance comes closer to reality.

Companies losing $10 BILLION by ignoring new gTLDs — report

Kevin Murphy, April 11, 2017, Domain Registries

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.

.sexy may be blocked in Iran

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Tech

Some networks in Iran appear to be systematically blocking Uniregistry’s .sexy gTLD.

That’s one of the conclusions of a slightly odd experiment commissioned by ICANN.

The newly published An Analysis of New gTLD Universal Acceptance was conducted by APNIC Labs. The idea was to figure out whether there are any issues with new gTLDs on the internet’s DNS infrastructure.

It concluded that there is not — new gTLDs work just fine on the internet’s plumbing.

However, the survey — which comprised over 100 million DNS resolution attempts — showed “One country, Iran, shows some evidence of a piecemeal block of Web names within the .sexy gTLD.”

The sample size for Iranian attempts to access .sexy was just 30 attempts. In most cases, users were able to resolve the names with DNS, but HTTP responses appeared to be blocked.

The survey did not test .porn or .adult names, but it might be safe to assume similar behavior in those gTLDs.

APNIC also concluded that Israel’s .il ccTLD, included in the report as a known example of TLD blocking at the national level, is indeed blocked in Iran and Syria.

The study also found that there may be issues with Adobe’s Flash software, when used in Internet Explorer, when it comes to resolving internationalized domain names.

That conclusion seems to have been reached largely because the test’s methodology saw a Flash advertisement discretely fetching URLs in the background of web pages using Google Ads.

When the experimenters used HTML 5 to run their scripts instead, there was no problem resolving the names.

The study did not look at some of the perhaps more pressing UA issues, such as the ability for registrants and others to use new gTLD domain names in web applications.

Site names and shames shoddy TLD support

Kevin Murphy, April 20, 2015, Domain Tech

A self-professed geek from Australia is running a campaign to raise awareness of new gTLDs by naming and shaming big companies that don’t provide comprehensive TLD support on their web sites.

SupportTheNew.domains, run by university coder Stuart Ryan, has been around since last June and currently indexes support problems at dozens of web sites.

The likes of Facebook, Amazon, Adobe and Apple are among those whose sites are said to offer incomplete support for new gTLDs.

It’s the first attempt I’m aware of to list “universal acceptance” failures in any kind of structured way.

Ryan says on the site that he set up the campaign after running into problems signing up for services using his new .email email address.

The site relies on submissions from users and seems to be updated whenever named companies respond to support tickets.

Universal acceptance is a hot topic in the new gTLD space, with ICANN recently creating a steering group to promote blanket TLD support across the internet.

Often, sites rely on outdated lists of TLDs or regular expressions that think TLDs are limited to three characters when they attempt to verify domains in email addresses or URLs.

Group forms to stop new gTLDs breaking stuff

Kevin Murphy, February 17, 2015, Domain Tech

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.

It’s also hosting a mailing list and the group’s first conference call, which will take place tomorrow at 1600 UTC.

New gTLD implicated in Macaulay Culkin “death”, but journalists get it all wrong

Kevin Murphy, November 10, 2014, Domain Registries

A cybersquatted domain in a new gTLD was deployed to perpetrate a hoax about the death Macaulay Culkin at the weekend, but reports insisted on adding a “.com” to the name.

A prankster set up a fake news report at msnbc.website, which was registered via Domains By Proxy on November 5, reporting the former child actor had been found dead at 34 in his apartment.

MSNBC is of course an American TV news network which usually operates at msnbc.com.

While unconvincing, the hoax nevertheless reportedly managed to string along a fair few Twitter users before the news media got around to debunking it. Culkin is, at time of publication, alive.

What’s interesting, and no doubt frustrating if you’re in the new gTLD industry, is the number of media outlets — both mainstream and tech-oriented — that got the domain name wrong.

According to Google News, at least 10 publications, including the International Business Times and The Inquisitr, have reported the domain in question was “msnbc.website.com”.

Even publications that correctly linked to msnbc.website still reported the incorrect .com domain in the anchor text, perhaps displaying the level of ignorance about new gTLDs out there today.

Twitter starts supporting (some) new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 7, 2014, Domain Tech

Twitter has started recognizing new gTLDs on its web page and on Tweetdeck.

As of some point in the last 48 hours, you can type something like “nic.berlin” or “fire.plumbing” in a tweet and Twitter will automatically turn it into a clickable link.

The switcheroo seems to have happened in the last two days, as this conversation may illustrate.

But there seems to be some delay — about a month, by my reckoning — in the support.

Domains such as nic.sexy, which is in a TLD delegated November 14, become clickable, but domains in more recent delegations such as .okinawa, which hit the root on Wednesday, are not.

Going back through the DI PRO Calendar, it seems that any TLD delegated on February 5 or earlier gets clickable links in Twitter and those delegated over the last four weeks do not.

I’m not sure why TLDs delegated in the last month are not supported, but I imagine it could be an annoyance during registries’ pre-launch marketing.

It’s difficult to overestimate how important application support is for the new gTLD program.

If new gTLDs don’t look like web addresses, there’s going to be a big barrier to adoption. A .link domain that isn’t clickable isn’t much use and nobody wants to have to copy-paste URLs.

Support for new gTLDs for Twitter’s 232 million active users is a big step along the road to universal acceptance of all TLDs, which ICANN has identified as a problem.

Google Chrome handles new TLDs badly

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2012, Domain Tech

Sint Maarten’s new .sx country-code top-level domain has been online for at least a couple months now, but Google’s Chrome browser appears to be still a bit wary of it.

Typing “registry.sx” and “nic.sx” into Chrome’s combined URL/search bar today, instead of being sent to my chosen destination I was instead sent to a page of Google search results.

The browser presented the message “Did you mean to go to http://registry.sx?”.

Chrome .sx

Once my intentions were confirmed, Chrome bounced me to the registry’s web site and seemed to remember my preference on future visits. Other Chrome users have reported the same behavior.

Chrome is understood to use the Public Suffix list to figure out what is and isn’t a domain, and .sx does not currently appear on that list.

Internet Explorer and Firefox (also a Public Suffix list user) both seem already to resolve .sx names normally.

While not a massive problem for .sx, which has just a handful of second-level domains active, new gTLD applicants might want to pay attention to this kind of thing.

Chrome has a significant share of the browser market – about 15% by some counts, as high as 38% by others.

Launching a new gTLD without full browser support could look messy. Chrome isn’t blocking access to .sx, but its handling of the new TLD is not particularly graceful.

Imagine a scenario in which you’ve just launched your dot-brand, and instead of arriving at your web site Chrome users are instead directed to Google (with the top sponsored result a link you’ve probably paid for).

ICANN is currently pondering ways to promote the universal acceptance of TLDs for precisely this reason.

Searches for the pop producer Will.I.Am prompt Chrome to attempt to find an address in the Armenian ccTLD.