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Dejan Đukić, Director of the Serbian National Internet Domain Registry Foundation (RNIDS)

Universal Acceptance

Empowering Global Development and Digital Inclusion

In the dynamic landscape of global business, the internet serves as the nexus connecting enterprises worldwide. However, in the midst of this digital interconnectedness, the significance of truly multilingual internet cannot be overstated. With approximately 6,500 living languages spoken worldwide, catering to diverse linguistic preferences is imperative for businesses that aim to expand their global footprint. But how often do we encounter online content beyond English or our native tongue serving our local needs?

Consider the domain landscape, where English alphabet domains dominate. Despite efforts to promote Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), local scripts face barriers to widespread adoption. Only 151 IDNs currently represent 37 languages and 23 scripts, a fraction of the linguistic diversity worldwide.

The recent Universal Acceptance (UA) Day 2024, hosted in Belgrade, underscored the pivotal role of UA in creating a truly multilingual and digitally inclusive internet. At the heart of UA lies the imperative to bridge the digital divide. For businesses operating in diverse markets, embracing UA is not just a matter of inclusivity, but rather a strategic imperative, as enterprises can ensure their digital presence resonates with local audiences, transcending linguistic barriers and fostering deeper engagement.

Universal acceptance is a foundational requirement for a truly multilingual internet, one in which users worldwide can navigate entirely in local languages

The Serbian National Internet Domain Registry Foundation (RNIDS) had the honour of hosting the keystone UA Day event, while Belgrade served as an exemplary host city, an intersection of cultural heritage and technological innovation. The event, organised globally by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and the volunteer UASG (Universal Acceptance Steering Group), brought together internet experts from China, Armenia, Russia, Ghana, Pakistan, Thailand, India and Morocco, representatives from the European Union market, ICANN communities, UNESCO and other important international organisations. Speaking at the conference, experts shared their experiences and identified obstacles for IDNs to overcome and new generic top-level domains (new gTLDs) to reach their full potential.

But what does UA stand for and why is UA readiness still a work in progress?

Universal Acceptance is a foundational requirement for a truly multilingual internet, one in which users worldwide can navigate entirely in local languages. It is also the key to unlocking the potential of new gTLDs to foster competition, consumer choice and innovation in the domain name industry. In order to achieve Universal Acceptance, internet apps and systems must treat all TLDs in a consistent manner, including new gTLDs and internationalised TLDs. Specifically, they must accept, validate, store, process and display all domain names.

The issue of Universal Acceptance is largely a technical one. Although protocols enabling it have existed for years, they are rarely implemented. That’s why joint efforts among various stakeholders are needed to implement IDNs and new gTLDs in order to bridge the multilingual gap and for the benefits of a more inclusive internet to be enjoyed by all.

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