Jan 19, 2020

Will Chinese IDN domains become widely used?

So far, Chinese IDN top level domains have struggled.

Just a few days ago the Internet Society of China announced the formation of a working group to promote the use of Chinese domains. Is it the trigger we need to see Chinese IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) flourish?
As the organization is supported by the Ministry of Information Industry, this also suggests a strong desire from the Chinese government to see the widespread use of Chinese domains. The working group aims to resolve technical issues so that Chinese domains can work nicely with browsers, email systems, search engines, and other aspects of the internet. It will also promote innovation and application of Chinese domains to enable their popular use.

Let’s look at the current situation. Below is a list of Chinese IDN top level domains with registrations of more than 1,000. The data is taken from Namestat.org.

Ranking Extension Domains Registered
23 .网址 (web address) 176,133
60 .公司 (company) 37,364
66 .手机 (mobile phone) 32,741
80 .商标 (trademark) 27,498
81 .在线 (online) 27,375
104 .商城 (mall) 21,700
140 .我爱你 (i love you) 15,979
297 .网店 (web shop) 4,706
356 .中文网 (Chinese web) 2,917
372 .集团 (group) 2,560
383 .信息 (information) 2,349
387 .购物 (shopping) 2,310
410 .企业 (corporation) 1,794
447 .移动 (mobile) 1,046
As you can see, the numbers are quite dismal. For example, No. 1 .网址 (web address) was launched in 2014. It peaked at 380,000 domains and then remained stagnant at about 200,000. Currently, it sits at 176,000. No. 2 .公司 (company) was also launched in 2014. It grew to 53,000 and has remained stagnant over the years. Currently, it sits at 37,000.
Apart from these new extensions, there is also a Chinese IDN extension which has been available since 2006: .中国 (.china). For many years, this IDN extension never exceeded 500,000 registrations. Then, it suddenly shot up to 1.9 million in 2018 then down to 1.8 million last year. The cause of this surge is unknown and so further observation is required.
Consumers may prefer Chinese content on corporate websites but do not necessarily demand the corresponding domains to be in Chinese characters. This is evident in the 2019 Top 100 Chinese Internet Companies Report where none of the leading companies use a Chinese IDN as their corporate domain.
So, Chinese IDN domains are still tiny when compared with mainstream extensions .com and .cn. Their impacts are yet to be felt.

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