New IDNs are able to offer a larger playing field to companies. With .CN, .COM and .NET accounting for 96.9% of the 10.83 million domains names in the Chinese Internet market, new IDNs as well as Pinyin extensions offer a wide, open playing field.
The Chinese Government and IDN Regulations
The Chinese government likely will stick with the Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), since it has been pushing for greater control over its citizens’ online activities.
Domain registration in China must be accompanied by government-issued identification, and since 2010, China-based registrars have been ordered to delete domains that lack, or have inaccurate or anonymous, registration information.
It would be next to impossible for the Chinese government to enforce that rule for all registered domains -.COM and .NET names especially. Chinese IDNs would be far easier for the government to regulate since the majority of them are registered by Chinese/Hong Kong businesses.
Xiangjian Li, CEO of domain name investor Zodiac Holdings, which owns .WANG, told a Chinese news outlet he believes the Chinese government will stand firmly behind the use and promotion of Chinese IDNs. But that stands to reason, since Zodiac applied for 15 new gTLDs, 13 of which are IDNs.
How are Multi-National Corporations Utilizing IDNs in China?
Multi-national corporations interested in the Chinese market – companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, Disney, American Express and Nike – have websites in the Chinese country-code top-level domain, .CN. Now, they can saturate the world’s largest market even further.
For the first time in the history of the Internet, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the domain name system, is allowing top-level domains (TLDs) other than country codes in non-Roman script.
Applications were submitted for 116 so-called IDNs, meaning the Web soon will include TLDs in:
- South Korean
- Hindi, and
The incorporation of these TLDs has already begun.
It’s time for American businesses to take notice, and consider if they should have a presence in this space. Chinese-character TLDs offer Western businesses a way to tap into the vast Chinese consumer market in an organic and culturally adaptive way.
The Chinese Character IDN Rollout for the Domestic Market
在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) opened to the public at the end of April and broke registration records within an hour of going live, according to the owner/operator of the two TLDs.
Today, according to ICANN’s publicly available zone file data, the TLDs are in 5th and 15th place, among more than 100 new top-level domains, with website registrations of 33,838 and 15,580, respectively.
The Chinese State Commission for Public Sector Reform, having advocated for internationalized domain names for many years, is now set to reap the fruits of its efforts.
As the applicant for .政务 (GOVERNMENT) and .公益(PUBLIC INTEREST), the reform office issued a directive two years ago encouraging government agencies and public interest organizations to register websites in the common domains of .政务.CN (GOVERNMENT) and “.公益.CN (.PUBLIC INTEREST) to acclimate the Chinese people to the use of Chinese character domains.
In March, the central government went a step further, mandating the use of Chinese-character TLDs for local governments, according to official documents. So, it comes as no surprise that the Chinese government to date has registered 20,452 domain names within the .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) IDNs.
Abiding by the central government’s directives is good business policy in China, as it marks a company as politically correct and, therefore, more likely to achieve economic success.
The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, for example, is among the first wave of corporations to adapt to this changing Internet landscape. In addition to its current domain portfolio of 2,000-plus domain names, Alibaba has just acquired some of its primary brands in Chinese characters under the .在线 (.ONLINE), .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE), and .移动(.MOBILE) IDNs:
- 天猫(TMall), and
Vancl.com, an Alibaba competitor in the Chinese e-commerce battlefield, also has begun using its Chinese domain 凡客 within the .在线(.ONLINE) IDN.
The Chinese Character IDN Rollout for Multinational Corporations
Interest in .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) is not limited to the Chinese government and domestic businesses. Multinationals based in other countries also are getting in on the act.
ICANN records show that a number of companies registered their trademarks through registrars based in the U.S. and Europe.
- Microsoft, for example, registered its “Bing” and “Windows” brands in Chinese characters within .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE).
- Twitter registered “Tweet” and “Vine” within 在线 (.ONLINE), even though the central government has blocked Twitter in mainland China.
- Google also registered its “gmail”, “chrome” and “YouTube” trademarks within the two IDNs.
Given the size of the global Chinese-speaking population and the huge market it represents, global corporations will distinguish themselves by acquiring an Internet asset in Chinese character domain names.
As new Chinese IDN adoption and usage spreads, led by both government and business, Chinese consumers will likely follow. That, in turn, will increase public trust in the new extensions, leading to more widespread use.
In the short term, based on the investment by the Chinese Government, its directive to use these sites, and the prevalence of cybersquatters, who may rush to register popular brand names in Chinese-language TLDs (as they have in other TLDs), it makes sense for businesses to register their brand names first in the Chinese IDNs.
As more data on user adoption become available, global corporations will have to begin exploring the pros and cons of using their new IDN domain names for advertising, marketing, and other content.
It may not be time to forgo .CN, but if a brand has or desires a presence in Chinese markets, new IDN TLDs are worth serious consideration.
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