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Universal Acceptance: A Cornerstone of Equity

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By Ram Mohan
March 28, 2024

Today marks Universal Acceptance Day, a significant occasion that, while lacking the fanfare of a parade or festive menu, serves as a powerful rallying cry for inclusion and equity within our internet community. Picture a web where neither language or background imposes limitations on your online experience. That's the transformative power of Universal Acceptance (UA).

Universal Acceptance embodies the principle that all domain names and email addresses should seamlessly function across any internet-connected device or software, free from discrimination or technical hurdles. This concept has been at the forefront of my advocacy for over 25 years, long before I coined the phrase.

Early in my career, I witnessed these limitations firsthand. New domain options emerged, yet software often couldn't handle them. As the registry operator for .INFO, this posed a substantial challenge. Thus began a lengthy journey of advocating for technical adjustments with vendors, striving to broaden their accessibility to the broader market. While progress has been made, significant gaps still persist.

From this journey emerged Mohan’s Rules of TLD Acceptance, outlining fundamental principles:

  1. An old TLD will be accepted more often than a new TLD.
  2. An ASCII-only TLD will be accepted more than an IDN TLD.
  3. A two or three letter TLD will be accepted more often than a longer ccTLD or gTLD.

Imagine businesses in emerging markets locked out because their domain names use their native language! UA dismantles these barriers, welcoming new voices and perspectives online.

Despite these challenges, I’m profoundly hopeful. Achieving UA-compliance typically requires minor technical adjustments, often just a matter of editing a few lines of code—a fifteen-minute exercise with potentially far-reaching benefits. Embracing UA isn't just about expanding market reach; it's about fostering a more inclusive digital future.

While the growth of multilingual TLDs presents exciting opportunities, it also brings challenges, particularly when systems fail to recognize linguistic nuances. The road to true digital inclusion inevitably leads through systems that utilize domain names and email addresses that reflect their culture, language, interests, business, or script. 

In 2015, I championed efforts to persuade major tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple to accept internationalized email addresses. Having three of the largest tech companies in the world make that change was a monumental accomplishment and a huge step in the right direction. But there is still so much work left to do. 

Here at Identity Digital, I’ve continued the mission I started so long ago, urging industry to make Universal Acceptance a reality. However, while we fulfill our part, governments can further incentivize the business community to move in the right direction. 

Initiatives like NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program demonstrate the United States’ federal government's commitment to broadband deployment across the country. During the 2023 Internet Governance Forum in Kyoto, Japan, NTIA’s head Alan Davidson and I participated in a panel discussing building a multilingual internet. Alan emphasized “Connectivity to the Internet becomes much more meaningful when you can connect in your own language.” Adoption AND acceptance will lead to an inclusive and multilingual internet. Small steps like prioritizing UA-ready companies in government procurement policies represents a tangible step toward achieving true Universal Acceptance.

The internet is becoming more voice-activated and keyboard-less, accessible via a QR code, and becoming inherently more UA-friendly. AI based chat engines like ChatGPT and Gemini, now widely popular, if trained correctly, could eliminate the bias against universal acceptance of names.

The next generation of the internet is a truly international one. Although many Americans perceive the internet as widely available, millions in America and billions of people worldwide still lack access to this essential tool. Emerging markets hold the key to the internet's next billion users. Multilingualization is the single best way to show all communities around the world that they too belong online. 

Universal Acceptance opens the door to the next billion internet users and is a crucial part of a larger story about digital inclusion. In the coming months, I will explore these topics further. Visit to learn more about Universal Acceptance and join us in spreading the word. Together, we can build a web where everyone belongs.

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