Finns star in a Chinese dream come true
Updated: 2014-05-23 07:43
By Liu Lu (China Daily Europe)
Chinese domain names will help companies craft more customized online identities. Liu Lu / China Daily
Company breaks long-held language stranglehold on Internet domain names
What's in a name? When it comes to websites, one of the answers to that is a hell of a lot of money. Which explains why, according to the Daily Telegraph in London, the name insure.com fetched $16 million (11.7 million euros) when it was sold in 2009.
But money is just part of the story with such names. For a long time, domain names, apart from being dominated by top-level domains such as .com, have also been characterized by the fact that without exception they have used the Latin alphabet.
In recent years, some people have envisaged breaking the Western stranglehold on domain names. That dream, very much a Chinese one, is about to come true, and with an unlikely player in the leading role: a company from Finland.
The vision of TLD Registry Ltd, one of the world's largest domain name registries, has been to provide China, the world's biggest and fastest growing Internet market, easier access to the Web. To that end it has just announced that it has exclusive rights to manage the top-level domain names ., (dot Chinese online) and . (dot Chinese website), allowing people to visit websites with Chinese strings.
"We believe the fully Chinese domain names enabled by . and . will bring long-term benefits to China's 700 million Internet users," says Arto Isokoski, the company's CEO and co-founder.
"With such a huge number of Internet users, China is the most important Internet market in the world. Also, Chinese people and Chinese language users are everywhere, as there are substantial Chinese communities in every major city of the world."
In 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved the use of simplified and traditional Chinese characters in the world's top-level domain names, but it has made little progress, he says.
TLD Registry decided to lead the campaign to promote the use of Chinese language in Internet domain names.
"It is unfair that Chinese people have been forced to use English letters to navigate the Web. So we are joining with the Chinese people to make Chinese even more relevant to China and the world."
Well-known domain name registrars such as XinNet, 35.com, Nawang, BizCN, EJEE and TodayNIC have all partnered with TLD Registry to help accelerate the use of Chinese language on the web, he says.
"With our services, billions of netizens using Chinese language worldwide will now be able to surf the Internet by typing fully Chinese-character domain names."
At the time of writing, TLD Registry had 54,011 domain names ending with . under management, and 38,838 ending with ..
On Jan 17, those Chinese domain names became available to trademark holders, attracting dozens of Fortune 500 companies, such as Apple, Amazon and Rolex, which registered their Chinese brand names as domain names in the 60 days that followed.
Then, on April 28, the domain names were open for registration to the general public, and it was the most successful new top-level domain launch day, ahead of other domain names that were made available a few months earlier.
In just one week, the two top-level domains attracted a huge number of registrations, with . reaching 30,512 and . seaching 14,510, enabling them to rank 4th and 11th respectively on ntldstats.com, a website that offers a comprehensive list of statistics pertaining to the new generic top-level domains.
"We are very proud to see our Chinese language top-level domains in the global top-10 on their first day of availability," Isokoski says.
The Chinese domains are particularly welcomed by business owners and industry experts, he says. Some 50,000 of domain names have been registered, including some well-known websites, such as those of online apparel retailer Vancl and media house Beijing Times.
"The usefulness and popularity of . has been validated by hundreds of famous and highly trafficked web properties, including AOL, Formula One motor racing, key state news portals and many of the largest web services platforms, including those for tickets, hotels and gaming."
The two fully Chinese domain names are welcomed by China's companies and government, as well as by international enterprises which provide goods, services and information to Chinese consumers, says Simon Cousins, director of marketing and communications of TLD Registry.
"Fully Chinese domains will eliminate complexity and improve accuracy for Chinese netizens. They will also dramatically affect how people brand their business and develop their online presence, particularly for foreign enterprises doing business in China.
"They will help companies craft more customized online identities as Chinese and foreign enterprises will be able to build their online identities in an easier-to-remember, more intuitive, and better localized way."
China Internet Network Information Center, an administrative agency responsible for Internet affairs under the Ministry of Information Industry, says more than 90 percent of central and provincial-level governments, 95 percent of the country's news media websites, 90 percent of the key universities and more than half of China's top hundred enterprises have registered new Chinese domain names ending with ., or dot China, which has been open for registration since January 2012. Industry insiders believe it proves the multilingual Internet domain names era has arrived.
Li Xiaodong, executive director of CINIC, says the new Chinese top-level domain names are very valuable intellectual property Internet resources, as they will help to protect and enhance brand influence. The early registers will benefit a lot as soon as Internet users begin to get accustomed to using those domain names.
The emergence of the new generic top-level domains will boost the change of the domain name industry, which is conducive to innovation and development of the Internet, Li says. The new domain names also offer users a wider choice and will meet the needs of non-English users.
Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen hailed the operations of the two Chinese domain names when he received the news of TLD Registry's groundbreaking contract in Beijing during a five-day official visit in China in support of Finnish industry last September.
"It is reasonable to expect that this innovation made real by entrepreneurs from Finland will bring tremendous long-term benefits for China's Internet users," Katainen told Chinese media in Beijing. "Bridging the last gap in a fully Chinese web is a milestone achievement, and it will be remembered. I am very proud it was my countrymen who came up with this solution that is so significant economically and culturally."
Isokoski says he is confident in TLD Registry's business prospects in China and will further promote the two domain names globally.
"We are 100 percent committed to China and the Chinese people. We know China quite well, and consider it our home territory.
"Chinese domain names will quickly become the No 2, behind English, and will probably exceed English in numbers within a decade. China's government is strongly supporting a 'more Chinese Internet' for Chinese people."
TLD Registry has struck a deal with the Chinese government to buy about 20,000 domain names across the two top-level domains, which ensured it would come out of the gate strong.
"The world of Internet is constantly evolving, but ultimately, companies pursue to obtain a unique and appropriate domain name. Chinese domains present both opportunities and challenges, but in the eyes of millions of Internet users in China, fully Chinese domains are easier to remember. Companies will be able to have domain names that are more linguistically rich and relevant to local culture and customs."
(China Daily European Weekly 05/23/2014 page21)