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Expanding Internet domain names in China | Updated: 2013-04-09 13:43

An organization that coordinates Internet protocols is discussing the future of online domain names in Beijing. In addition to the familiar dot-com and dot-org suffixes, billions more new addresses could be hitting the web, including those using Chinese characters.

China's new domain name market is attracting experts and stakeholders from around the world.

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The non-governmental organization that oversees domain names, the Internet Committee for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is in Beijing to discuss allowing hundreds more suffixes, including those using Chinese characters rather than the western alphabets. With the largest Internet population in the world, China has the potential to drive development in the domain name market.

Sun Yongge, Vice Secretary-General, Internet Society of China, said, "There is still a long way to go for China to participate in developing the Internet. That's been lacking due to our language and cultural background. So now, we are actively pushing forward the development of internationalized domain names. Chinese domain names can help people better understand and participate in the management of the Internet. "

In order to understand what exactly is changing, and how it will affect users, let's take a look at how domain names work. Web address suffixes like dot-com and dot-org are what's known as generic top level domains. Today, there are only 22 such domains. And that’s what's about to change. Soon, you can create or manage a generic top level domain of your own choosing. The new suffixes also won't have to use Roman letters. They could also be in Chinese or other characters.

James Seng is the Managing Director of Zodiac Holdings Limited. It's the single largest new domain applicant from China. He said the new domains using Chinese characters will make a major difference in searching websites.

James Seng, Managing Director, Zodiac Holdings Ltd, said, "In China, there is dissociation between brand and domain name. In the past, for example, if you look for Beijing University, you have to use search engines like Google or Baidu. You type Beijing Daxue, and then, you look for the result. That's inconvenient, because that's two steps. But now you can directly type Beijing Daxue and dot Zhongguo, there you go. You get to the website directly. And that’s what the Chinese domain name brings more value and better navigation for the people."

But opportunities also bring challenges. Concerns over trademark protection are growing with potential problems over competition to claim domain names.

Prof. Hong Xue, Director, Institute of Internet Policy & Law, said, "The first challenge is how to get a Chinese trademark in Chinese characters protected in the ICANN new domain program. There will be a thousand new domain extensions. And some people may be cyber squatters. ICANN may not really understand the demand and requirement of Chinese communities, so we hope ICANN can really understand our consumer protection laws and data protection laws and other regulations."

If everything proceeds properly, new domain names could mean better brand control, better user experience and a chance to show leadership in Internet technology. Chinese domain names are also expected to help expand global participation in Internet management.

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