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ICANN Announces Phase One Results from Multiyear Consumer Study on the Domain Name Landscape

Positive findings around consumer awareness and trust in domains and the industry overall

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today published the findings from its ICANN Global Consumer Research Study, Phase One, conducted on its behalf by Nielsen, to measure aspects of consumer awareness, perceived consumer choice, experience and trust related to the current generic top-level domain (gTLD) landscape and the domain name system (DNS). The global study surveyed 6,144 consumers aged 18+ representing Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and South America, and was administered in 18 languages and drawn from 24 countries. The research, conducted between February 2-19, 2015, was designed to create a meaningful baseline of data on consumer attitudes and will be followed by a second survey approximately one year later. This will also be a key input to a team set to be reviewing competition, consumer trust and consumer choice in the domain name system later this year.

To prepare for this review, ICANN's stakeholder community recommended a list of metrics and definitions to help inform consideration of these areas. ICANN commissioned this survey in response to recommendations from the Implementation Advisory Group on Competition, Consumer Choice and Consumer Trust (IAG-CCT). Among the 66 metrics recommended, a subset of 11 were identified as best being measured using a global survey of Internet users. ICANN conducted an open RFP and signed a contract with Nielsen to conduct the study in November 2014.

"This is the first time we've surveyed consumers directly about domain names and Internet use, and it provides an important benchmark as the new domains roll out," Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's Global Domains Division. "As the community looks toward future rounds, the survey findings will help inform the best approach."

Growing awareness for new gTLDs

Since the first new gTLD was delegated in October 2013, more than 630 new gTLDs have been delegated. To gauge perceptions of the new gTLDs, the survey focused on the new gTLDs with the greatest number of registrations at the time the questions were developed in January 2015 – .EMAIL, .PHOTOGRAPHY, .LINK, .GURU, .REALTOR, .CLUB, .XYZ and a regionally relevant TLD, including internationalized domain names (IDNs).

Across all survey respondents, 46 percent reported awareness of at least one new gTLD, with 65 percent of those who are aware reporting they have also visited a new gTLD. Notably, .EMAIL and .LINK led in awareness and visitation of new gTLDs.

"The survey found that domains with an implied purpose and functional associations, such as .EMAIL, were most often recalled by Internet users," said Atallah. "While some of the drivers may be linked to familiarity and general association versus awareness of the extension, we believe it's a signal that people are receptive to the names."

Awareness continues to be high for well-known legacy TLDs

The survey also examined consumer attitudes toward a subset of legacy TLDs introduced before 2012 – .COM, .NET, .ORG, .INFO, .BIZ, .MOBI, .PRO, .TEL, .ASIA and .COOP. Among these legacy gTLDs, three extensions (.COM, .NET and .ORG) lead awareness, with nearly 8 in 10 (79 percent) respondents reporting knowledge of these domains, on average. These TLDs also had relatively high visitation, with an average of 71 percent of respondents reporting they have visited one of those domains.

Consumer trust in the Domain Name Industry is high

Notably, Nielsen found that 72 percent of respondents reported high levels of trust with entities that offer domain names. These high trust levels were linked to a perception that the industry will take precautions, give consumers what they think they're getting, and screen companies or individuals who register for certain domain names.

Of those surveyed, an average of 90 percent claimed to trust the top three legacy TLDs (.COM, .NET, and .ORG), with the highest numbers found in North America, South America and Africa. Consistent with other study findings, the results show trust among new gTLDs is lower than legacy TLDs, but growing: nearly one person in two (49 percent) on average reports that they trusted the sample of new gTLDs provided in the survey.

Users aware and fearful of abusive Internet behavior, but taking precautions

Abusive Internet behavior, including spam, malware, phishing, and cybersquatting remain an issue for Internet users. At least three quarters of the respondents (74 percent) are familiar with malware, phishing or stolen credentials. Cybersquatting is the only bad behavior that the majority are unfamiliar with — just over 1 in 3 (37 percent) report awareness.

Regardless of their experience, most Internet users take some personal actions to improve their online security — most commonly installing anti-virus software and modifying their online behavior. There is a continuing need for education as consumers seek out resources to increase their sense of safety and to help resolve issues encountered online.

Additional Study highlights include:

  • When asked to describe new gTLDs, the most common words included: useful, informative, helpful, practical, interesting and innovative.
  • While people are increasingly using different devices to surf the web, 64 percent of respondents report using a search engine as their preferred way to find a website. This is only slightly lower than Internet users report they did two to three years ago.
  • Registering a domain is not hard, but could be easier – fifty-three percent report that registering a domain is either "very easy" or "somewhat easy" and roughly half want the process of registering a website to be less complicated (50 percent), cheaper (55 percent) and quicker (49 percent).

ICANN is also working with Nielsen to conduct a global survey of domain name registrants and their perceived sense of trust and choice in the domain name space. Results from that study will be available later in 2015.

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 in February 2-19, 2015, and the final report was delivered in April 2015. A total of 6,144 consumers aged 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. In addition, significance testing was performed at a 95 percent confidence level throughout the survey.  For a complete methodological summary, including weighting variables, please contact karen.lentz@icann.org.

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""icann.org"" is not an IDN."