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IDNs — small and shrinking

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2023, 18:24:10 (UTC), Domain Registries

It’s no secret that internationalized domain names haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves since they were first introduced over a decade ago, but the latest ICANN data shows registration volumes are shrinking.

According to its second annual IDN Progress Report (pdf), there were 1.52 million IDN names across all gTLDs (including Latin-script TLDs) at the end of 2022, which was down 2.94% from a year earlier.

ICANN pointed out that this is actually a slower decline than in previous years, where the average shrinkage from 2019 to 2021 was 11.36%.

Chinese-script names were perhaps unsurprisingly the most common, representing 50% of the total, with Latin coming second-place with 26%. Some Latin-script languages need representing as IDNs to accommodate diacritics like cedillas and umlauts.

Korean, Cyrillic and Japanese followed in popularity. The multitude of scripts used in India fall into the “other” category, with less than 1% of the total — fewer than Hebrew — despite the country’s vast population.

The relatively low number of registrations is spread across ASCII and IDN gTLDs. Ninety-one of the 1,172 total gTLDs are IDN gTLDs and 462 gTLDs support IDNs at the second-level, regardless of top-level script.

ICANN’s report does not cover ccTLDs, presumably because the zone files are not usually readily available, but we know from ccTLD registry that their own IDNs can be somewhat popular.

Russia reports 681,000 .РФ names today, while China recorded 190,000 .中国 names mid-2022.

ICANN has made IDNs and universal acceptance a cornerstone of its current strategic plan and there’s likely to be a push for IDN applications in the next new gTLD rounnd.

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