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ICANN Releases Phase One Registrant Survey on the Domain Name Landscape

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today published the findings of its first Global Registrant Survey, which was conducted on its behalf by Nielsen. The study demonstrates, among other things, that domain name registrants are more familiar with new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) than general Internet users who have not registered a domain. Survey participants were questioned about their awareness of new gTLDs, as well as their perceived sense of choice, experience and trust related to the current gTLD landscape. The study completes phase one of a series of ICANN-commissioned surveys intended to inform a review of competition, consumer trust and consumer choice (CCT) in the Domain Name System. A second phase, which will be launched in approximately one year, will serve as a comparison to these baseline findings.

Nielsen surveyed 3,357 domain name registrants aged 18+ in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America. The survey was administered in 17 languages and participants were drawn from 24 countries. The research, conducted in two waves between February and August 2015, was designed to create a meaningful baseline of data on registrant attitudes regarding new generic top-level domains.

"This survey provides us with a better understanding with how registrants view the domain name space and Internet and will help inform future reviews of the program," says Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's Global Domains Division. 

Along with the Global Consumer Survey, whose results were published in May 2015, 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 [PDF, 472 KB] 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. The findings will be a key input for the CCT Review Team to consider.

Awareness of new gTLDs high among registrants, particularly in Asia

Awareness of new gTLDs is higher among registrants than among general Internet users – 65 percent of registrants reported awareness of at least one new gTLD versus 46 percent of general Internet users. Interestingly, while 65 percent of general Internet users said they had visited a domain in a new gTLD, 64 percent of registrants reported the same.

Asia stands out when it comes to awareness – 70 percent of those surveyed said they were aware of at least one new gTLD. Only South America comes close to that level of awareness, with 66 percent of respondents from the region indicating familiarity with at least one new gTLD.

More registrants also said they're likely to consider a new gTLD for registering domain names in the future – 61 percent versus 52 percent of Internet users. As with Internet users, the top three choices for registering a new gTLD name were .EMAIL, .LINK and .CLUB, which were selected from a fixed list of new gTLDs.

Registrants generally trust the domain name industry

Registrants and general Internet users generally place the same levels of trust in new gTLDs and the domain name industry, with some slight differences. Registrants are slightly less trustful (70 percent of registrants versus 73 percent of general Internet users) that entities will take precautions regarding who gets a domain name, but are slightly more trustful (75 percent of registrants versus 71 percent of general Internet users) that those same entities will give general Internet users what they think they're getting.

Unsurprisingly, registrants across the board favor no or few purchase restrictions on domain names in new gTLDs.

Registrants aware and cautious of abusive behavior online

Abusive Internet behavior, including spam, malware, phishing and cybersquatting are a concern for domain name registrants. Awareness among general Internet users and registrants is comparable, with registrants reporting slightly more familiarity with stolen credentials (71 percent for registrants versus 67 percent for general Internet users) and cyber squatting (54 percent for registrants versus 40 percent for general Internet users.) Across the board, registrants also report more personal experience with abusive behaviors included in the survey: phishing, spamming, cyber squatting, stolen credentials and malware.

Perhaps because of greater familiarity with abusive behavior online, registrants as a group reported less fear of falling victim to abusive behaviors online. To combat their concerns, registrants are more likely than average Internet users to change their Internet habits, purchase an identity protection plan or simply stop making purchases online. The only strategy registrants are less likely to pursue than general Internet users is to purchase antivirus software for their computers to combat phishing or cyber squatting.

Who's registering domain names?

The registrants surveyed said they primarily register domain names for personal or small business use. The survey, which was only open to those who had registered at least one domain name, showed that registrants surveyed are mostly male (62 percent) compared to general Internet users surveyed, whose male audience made up 55 percent of the consumer survey sample. Registrants surveyed also skewed younger, with 70 percent under the age of 45, similar to the consumer survey, where 68 percent of the sample population was comprised of those under 45.

.COM, .NET and .ORG were the most registered TLDs cited in the survey, gaining 72 percent, 31 percent, and 23 percent respectively of the names registrants reported holding. .COM was cited most in North America with 84 percent of the sample reporting registering a name in that TLD, while only 53 percent reported holding .COM names in Europe.

While 80 percent of those surveyed said they had one to five domain names registered, only 40 percent indicated they registered duplicate domain names in different TLDs, with the highest number of duplicate domain registrations reported in North America (46 percent of the sample). Nearly half (49 percent) said a TLD's familiarity was the main factor in choosing which TLD to purchase.

Additional study highlights include:

  • Registrants say a well-known TLD is a key factor in determining which domain name to purchase – more important than a reasonable price.
  • 61 percent of registrants find it very or somewhat easy to register a domain name. That figure rises to 76 percent in North America and 66 percent in Europe.
  • About half of registrants would prefer a cheaper, quicker, less complicated experience when purchasing a domain name, as well as a notable desire to make the process of registering in multiple TLDs easier.

About the Global Registrant Survey and Supporting Materials

The Global Registrant Survey was conducted by Nielsen on behalf of ICANN. The data collection phase of the survey took place from February 19 to August 13 2015, and the final report was delivered in September 2015. A total of 3,357 domain name registrants aged 18+ representing Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America were selected based on ever registering a domain name and being a decision maker in domain name registration decisions meaning they were aware of the purpose of the domain name and in which TLDs the name had been registered. The survey was administered in 17 languages and drawn from registrants in 24 countries. In addition, significance testing was performed at a 95 percent confidence level throughout the report.

More than 700 new gTLDs have been delegated since the launch of the program in October 2013. 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).

Supporting Materials

Registrant Survey

Consumer Survey


About ICANN

ICANN's mission is to ensure a stable, secure and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn't have one global Internet. ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers. ICANN doesn't control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn't deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet's naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. For more information please visit: www.icann.org.


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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."