They used to primarily appeal to international enterprises, but domestic small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are also taking notice of Chinese domain names.
An increasing number of Chinese companies have been trying to cash in on domestic domains, says Hu Gang, a lawyer specializing in online intellectual property rights protection. He says hundreds of Chinese domain names are registered every day. Company names as well as industrial terms have been particularly popular.
Many small companies thought a single domain name was sufficient, says Hu, only to later encounter a number of international enterprises in a rush to buy Chinese domains.
German automaker BMW, for example, registered about 10 Chinese domains. South Korean mobile phone producer Pantech registered over 20 Chinese domain names as soon as it stepped into the market, covering everything from the company name to brands and abbreviations.
"Many domestic SMEs learned from that," Hu says.
Some SMEs, including Beijing-based Unistrong Technology Co, even began registering multiple names at once.
"I realized that Chinese domain names were likely to become a trend when I read a story about it in a newspaper last November," says Liang Rui, a company official.
Unistrong Technology started registering Chinese domain names soon after a conference among senior officials. Within a few months it had benefited from those domains.
"They do help us build up the brands and improve awareness among customers," he says. "We found it easy to promote our websites after we registered the Chinese domains."
He explains that some customers had forgotten their previous English domain name, www.unistrong.com, but they only actually needed to remember addresses such as sizhuang.cn, the company's name in Chinese.
"They are easy to remember and easy to use," Liang says.
The company has already registered 17 Chinese domain names covering its name, brands, and products. All of them have been put into operation.
Hu says this comprehensive registration effort will efficiently protect the company's brands online.
A survey by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) says domain names with a .cn suffix, which are the only kind completely governed and registered in China, has topped the options of registers in China. The number of .cn domain names had reached 1.09 million by the end of last year. Compared with international domains, such as .com and .net, the .cn domain names now sell for competitive prices.
Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 7, which directly supports domain names in Chinese characters, will boost the application of Chinese domain names.
"They (Chinese domain names), as an emerging online resource, have great significance and are expected to spread widely in Chinese registers," Hu says. Analysts predict that Chinese domain names will peak within the next year or two.
Chinese domain names are recognized as a strategic industrial resource, and in industrial terms have become a favourite on SME registers in China. Thousands of Chinese domain names, such as Zhong Guo Si Mian Wang.cn or Zhong Guo Run Hua You Wang.cn, which translate as "China Silk Floss Net" and "China Lube Net", have been registered by SMEs, information from CNNIC says.
Xiamen-based Helicheng Import and Export Co has registered 13 industrial terms as their Chinese domain names, including China Sport Shoe Net.cn, China Rain Gear Net.cn, and China Bags Net.cn.
Sun Xin, an official with the company, says the idea came from an information and technology consultant.
"We largely use industrial terms to provide potential customers with a direct impression of our business and products," she says.
Sun says business has noticeably improved since the company took on the domains.
Hu says SMEs in China should first register company names, brands and trademarks as Chinese domain names. These are vital to companies online. He suggests that companies with a long-term strategy should not miss sub-brands and product names.
"They might find theses names already registered by others when the company expands," he says.
He adds that product categories and industrial terms will help attract target consumers and co-operators.
"They can also design some Chinese domain names for themselves if they fail to get the most popular names," he adds.
One idea is to add the city or province before the names, for example.
"Use Guangdong Garment Net if you can't get China Garment Net," he suggests. He adds that it would be better if companies registered all domain names at once, referring to the four forms of Chinese domains with the following suffixes: .cn, .Zhongguo (China), .Gongsi (company) and .Wangluo (Internet).
(China Daily 02/21/2006 page9)
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