Building a more inclusive internet for all: a Radix initiative

The ironic fact remains that there is hard-coding in the ever-evolving Internet in the way of Universal Acceptance. But that just makes our victories so much sweeter!

Universal Acceptance (UA) is a fundamental requirement for a truly multilingual and digitally inclusive internet. UA is important because it ensures that all domain names, including new long top-level domains (TLDs) and internationalized domain names (IDNs), and email addresses are treated equally and can be used by all Internet-enabled applications, devices, and systems.

The main stakeholder affected by the bad UA of new TLDs is undoubtedly the consumer of services using the new TLD. And as the leading new gTLD operator, Radix thought it wise to do its part to solve these problems.

We started tackling UA in early 2019. Since then, our research has focused on detecting gaps in the UA readiness of top websites and social media platforms. As a first step, we conducted an in-depth study to identify these issues that our customers face, whether reported or not. Our research included surveys of some of our customers and extensive testing of the most popular websites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even websites related to e-commerce, banking, etc.

A customer-oriented approach

New Short – Sign Up Forms Affecting Visitors (Source: Radix Universal Acceptance Test Report)

By digging deep into the customer surveys, we found that some of the most common customer complaints were something along the lines of: “I was filling out a form on a website and they weren’t accepting email IDs after 3 characters (in the domain extension)” or “Some government and corporate websites just don’t recognize my domain (on a new domain extension).”

As more and more of our customers reported their UA-related specific issues, we tested each of those individual cases and tried various ways of contacting the respective website/platforms to highlight their UA gaps. These reports are now public and can be accessed by anyone here: WebsitesSocial media

An important win for us (and UA!) was with Instagrams Scroll up diversion function. This important feature remained available for new gTLD domains until mid-2020. With a determined focus, we worked with users to report this bug and eventually moved on where new short and new long TLD domain names and email addresses were accepted on contact forms. Plus, the fastest solution we saw was provided by SurveyMonkey. We warned them that their signup/contact forms weren’t accepting new short or long TLD email addresses, and they fixed it within a week!

While some of these positive examples were undoubtedly motivating, we struggled to get a response from most website owners. When we did, they were unfortunately unfavorable. During our investigation, we attempted to reach these companies through publicly available support channels, and although we received confirmation emails, there was little to no commitment to resolve the UA issues.

Our website test exercise is inspired by the Steering Committee Universal Acceptance (UASG)‘s test method stated in their 2020 report

Website Testing Observations and Findings

For those unfamiliar with the terms, new short TLDs are TLD extensions with three or fewer characters (eg .xyz). New long TLDs are TLD extensions with more than three characters (eg .online). IDNs are TLDs in different script extensions (eg .भारत).

After testing 787 websites across multiple categories, including e-commerce and social media, Radix’s independent study found that new short TLDs had a contact form acceptance rate of 93.8%, while new long TLDs and IDN extensions had 88.81%. and 33.93%, respectively. In terms of sign-up acceptance rates, new short and new long TLDs came in at 89.4% and 80.4%, but IDNs only had a paltry 23.47%.

Sightings of RADIX
Case Application Acceptance % Contact form Acceptance %
New Short 89.40 93.80
New long 80.40 88.81
identification 23.47 33.93

While the adoption rates for new short and new long cases under most categories are over 80%, when a domain is an IDN, we see a drastic drop. Such comparisons between categories highlight areas of concern and provide direction to ambassadors and members advocating for Universal Acceptance.

Social Media Testing Observations and Findings

As part of the study, we also tested these social media platforms for their UA readiness for new short and new long TLDs:

  1. facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. whatsapp
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Twitter
  6. YouTube
  7. TikTok
  8. reddit
  9. WeChat
  10. QQ

Some of the key areas we tested were the signup flows, features that accept emails and websites, along with their respective linkage after benchmarking the platform performance with a regular .com domain name. Where appropriate, we extended the testing to web, iOS and Android versions.

The chat function on Facebook – Android version for example, hyperlinks and previews of a .com domain name, while this may not be the case for a new long or new short TLD. In another example, WhatsApp appears to hyperlink domains in their chat windows based on a library that may be hard-coded or outdated.

By far our biggest challenge remains connecting with website and platform owners. Although it is difficult, we believe that with the support of the ICANN community, we can work together to increase outreach efforts. That said, there are similar studies either in silos or through working groups. We encourage all such efforts and look forward to the remediation phase of the UASG.

Conclusion

While our efforts have accelerated and the progress made is encouraging, this is only the beginning. We still have a long way to go to make the Internet more inclusive of all TLDs, so that our customers can work freely on the Internet. Only then will there be a level playing field for all users.

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