Software bug affects internet domain names

Online businesses are losing out on billions in annual sales because of a bug conflicting with internet domain names, which aren’t made out of Latin characters, according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN dramatically expanded the range of what appeared on domains in 2011, causing major software issues. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of top-level domains expanded from 12 to over 1200, including 100 non-Latin script and alphabet characteristics, like an umlaut (¨), or ligatures, like the German Eszett (ß).

Email addresses are one of the main concerns, because of them having the ability to access social media pages and online bank accounts. Last year ICANN tested the messaging tool, without Latin characters, and found acceptance rates of less than 20% to the right of the dot.

Systems conflict against new internet domains

“The bug fix, which entails changing the fundamental rules that validate domains so that they accept Unicode, a different standard for encoding text that works for many more languages, is relatively straightforward,” says Afilias Steering Group’s Chair, Ram Mohan.

“The new research suggests that the potential economic benefits of making the fix outweigh the costs. Too many businesses, including ecommerce firms, email services, and banks, simply aren’t yet aware that their systems don’t accept these new domains.”

Although studies are showing improvements – Microsoft is in the process of updating its email systems (including Outlook clients and cloud-based services), and Google updated its Gmail in 2014, to display and accept internationalised domain names, without relying on the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII).

“Providing accessibility to these people will depend in many ways on the basic assumptions governing the core functions of the internet,” says Microsoft Programme Manager, Mark Svancarek.

“The problem here is that in some ways this is lazy programming, and because it’s lazy programming, it’s easy to replace it with better programming.”

The study also concludes that if the issues were to be completely fixed, it may bring 17 million Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Indian speakers online.

Edited from sources by Leah Alger

Source: MIT Technology Review