Think your business is optimised for new user growth globally? Think again – many companies are overlooking a critical infrastructure component.
The internet has fundamentally changed our world and changed it in such a rapid time frame that technology becomes obsolete as soon as it is introduced.
But while the internet has fostered all this massive transformation, many applications are still based on rules from 20+ years ago. This limits how businesses, organizations and people connect with each other.
According to the recent 2018 by renowned venture capitalist and analyst Mary Meeker, more than half of the world’s population, roughly 3.6 billion people, are now using the internet and using it often (this is line with ITU’s numbers). While overall numbers continue to rise, gaining new users is becoming more challenging.
But what if you made your services more accessible? What if you made it even more tailored to people’s personal choices? How would that impact your business domestically and globally?
The internet’s standards have changed – have your applications?
In 2010 some fundamental changes in internet standards were approved that expanded people’s choice of domain names and email addresses so that they could choose a name better aligned to their sense of identity. As a result, new top-level domains (TLDs) that are longer than the legacy three-character domain name (e.g. .com, .edu and .org) became available.
And top-level-domains became available in non-English based scripts such as Chinese, Arabic or Cyrillic (e.g., .世界 or .ОНЛАЙН). There are now more than 1,500 gTLDs that speak to specific interests, organisations or local languages. In addition, mailbox names, the part to the left of the ‘@’ could also be in non-English characters.
Due to the rapidly changing domain name landscape, many systems do not recognize or appropriately process new domain names properly, primarily because the TLD may be more than three characters in length or in non-ASCII characters (otherwise known as an , or IDN). New standards in email, known as (EAI), have also been introduced to accommodate the non-ASCII domain name space as well as in the mailbox name.
Email addresses that are based on Unicode are not always accepted
However, not all online portals are primed for the opening of a user account with one of these new email addresses. While filling out online forms, TLDs that exceed the previous standard length of two or three characters and email addresses that are based on Unicode are not always accepted.
When systems do not recognise or appropriately process the new domain names or email addresses that use these TLDs, the result can be denial of service and a poor user experience. Considering that 20% of global e-commerce comes from China, with countries like Japan and Germany also being top contributors to worldwide e-commerce retail sales, it is critical that your applications accept all email addresses and domain names – this can have a significant business impact as companies look to serve the global community.
While the expansion of the domain name space is critical in bringing the next billion people online, giving them choice in their online identity and growing the global internet economy, the incorporation of these new domains across the global internet is not an entirely automatic process. CIOs, web administrators, application developers and others have an important role to play in making sure their applications are compatible with the evolved internet infrastructure, a state known as (UA).
What is Universal Acceptance and why does it matter?
UA is the state where all domain names and all email addresses are accepted, validated, stored, processed and displayed correctly and consistently by all applications. When businesses are UA-ready, it means their systems and services will work harmoniously with the continuously expanding domain name space and will help set them up for future opportunities and success by supporting their customers using their customer’s chosen identities. The growth of these new domains means that being UA-ready is key to the biggest business opportunity many companies are missing.
A revealed a potential USD 9.8 billion growth opportunity in online revenue from both existing users using the new domain names and from new internet users coming online through IDNs. This is a conservative number, as the study did not consider the potential future growth in e-commerce spend or in the registrations of new domains. It also looked at just five major languages and language groups that would benefit from IDNs – Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Indic language groups.
Clearly, UA is a business opportunity, one where IT leaders play a critical role. IT leaders have an opportunity and a mandate to raise awareness of UA and help their organisations realize these benefits by ensuring UA compliance.
Industry support for UA readiness
The UASG exists to help organizations ensure their systems are UA-ready and able to accept all domain names and all email addresses.
The UASG has developed a number of helpful guides and resources for becoming UA ready which are available at , in particular the and an in-depth, for IT professionals who want to test whether their systems are UA-ready.
UA is so critical to a truly global internet that the world’s leading technology firms are devoting time, resources and technical expertise to helping companies become UA-ready. Companies such as and are making progress toward ensuring their websites, apps and services can be used by any valid domain name – new or old. For example, Microsoft recently support for email addresses in Indian languages.
The good news is that, in many cases, UA is considered a “bug fix” – one where system architects and development teams start including support for these new domain names and new email addresses as part of normal application maintenance.