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ICANN-commissioned Study Finds Increased Awareness and Trust in Domain Name System

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today published [PDF, 2.88 MB] the findings from its Phase 2 Global Consumer Research Survey. Conducted by Nielsen, the study measured current consumer attitudes toward the gTLD landscape and domain name system (DNS), as well as changes in consumer attitudes from the first wave study in 2015. Internet users were asked about aspects of consumer awareness, consumer choice, experience and trust.

The survey findings will inform the work of the Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice (CCT) Review Team. The team is examining the impact of the New gTLD Program on consumer trust in the DNS.

"Survey results show that overall awareness of generic top-level domain has grown when compared to the baseline study that was conducted last year and continues to grow," said Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's Global Domains Division. "I encourage community members to review this important report to learn more about the current market, as well as to inform the numerous discussions that are occurring about subsequent rounds."

Online survey participants included 5,452 consumers ages 18+ in 24 countries throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and South America. The survey was administered in 18 languages. This year, the study also included a sample of Internet users, ages 15-17.

The CCT Review Team will consider data from a separate survey of domain name registrants about their experiences later this year, when the Phase 2 report on registrants is published. The phase 1 registrant report was published in September 2015.

Key findings:

New generic top-level domains (gTLDs) showed a modest increase in awareness around the globe

  • More than half of respondents (52 percent) were aware of at least one new gTLD.
  • Awareness has particularly increased in North America (29 percent in 2015 vs. 38 percent in 2016), Asia Pacific (53 percent vs. 58 percent) and Europe (33 percent vs. 45 percent).
  • Reported visits to new gTLDs decreased (65 percent vs. 50 percent).

Awareness and trustworthiness remain high for well-known legacy TLDs

  • Of a subset of legacy TLDs, consumers were most aware of .COM (95 percent), .NET (88 percent) and .ORG (83 percent).
  • These TLDs rated highly (91 percent) as trustworthy destinations on the Internet.
  • ccTLDs are considered trustworthy by most consumers (95 percent) in regions where they are commonly used.

Consumers tie registration restrictions to trust

  • More than 70 percent of respondents favored some level of registration restrictions on both legacy and new gTLDs, an increase from 2015.
  • In thinking about new gTLDs, consumers expect the content of a website to closely match the implied meaning of the domain name at the second-level when considered in concert with the gTLD in which the name is registered.

Additional highlights include:

  • Overall, trust of the domain name industry relative to other technology-related industries has improved.
  • When asked to describe the purpose of gTLDs, respondents focused on the idea of structure to the Internet's content. When asked what new gTLDs will provide, respondents said they will improve this structure, improve credibility and meet the demand for more domain names.
  • Globally, teens' responses are similar to adults, though they show slightly more familiarity with new gTLDs, and use apps and wikis more than they rely on gTLDs for navigating online content.
  • Consumer concern about being a victim of online abusive behavior or cybercrime is relatively stable with 2015 numbers, though consumers do report being less comfortable providing personal information on a site using a new gTLD than a legacy gTLD or ccTLD.

About the Global Consumer Survey and Supporting Materials

The Global Consumer Survey was conducted by Nielsen on behalf of ICANN. The data collection and analysis phase of the survey took place from April 12 - May 2 2016, and the final report was delivered in June 2016. A total of 5,452 consumers ages 18+ representing Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and South America were selected based on the number of hours per week spent on the Internet. The survey was administered in 18 languages and drawn from 24 countries. This year the study also included a sample of teenage Internet users ages 15-17.

Significance testing was performed at a 95 percent confidence level throughout the survey.

Supporting Materials

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Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."