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The War of Chinese Domain Names Intensifies

China, Beijing Economic Daily, 6 November 2000 -- CNNIC would be conducting a full upgrade tomorrow on its Chinese domain name registration system, this was what reporters were told on 1st Nov at the CNNIC Chinese domain name registration system upgrade press conference cum Internet Chinese DNS promotion ceremony. At the ceremony, CNNIC also published its drafts for both its 'Chinese domain name registration management policy' and 'Chinese domain name dispute settlement policy', and announced that the China International Trade Arbitration Committee has been commissioned to undertake the settlement of disputes. Those present, including the key committee members of CNNIC's project committee, Vice-chairman of CAST Ms Hu Qiheng and MII's Head of Communications Regulation Department Mr Chen Yin, had expressed again on behalf of Chinese officials that CNNIC is the sole governing agency for Chinese domain names. On the very same day (1st Nov) American firm Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) announced in Beijing that it would soon offer registration service in China for Chinese domain names suffixed with .com, .net and .org. Those in the industry believe that the recent activities by CNNIC and NSI signal that the already heated up warfare in the Chinese domain name industry is, like what CNNIC is doing to its Chinese domain name system, getting upgraded - to a new level of intensity.

Triangular tussle for Chinese domain name market

The mad rush for domain name registrations a few years back would still strike fear today for those who were involved. Then, cyber squatters had robbed famous enterprises like Stone Group Corp. and Changhong etc. of their domain names. Sina.com had registered for all related names suffixed with .com in countries like China, America and Canada etc. but still others had preempted the company's efforts by first taking up sina.net and sina.org. Now, a new wave is stormily brewing and registrars are fast catching on the corporate mentality of intellectual rights protection; and are eagerly helping themselves to slices of the registration market.

According to the marketing manager of Socix Pte Ltd Mr Li Jie who was part of CNNIC's Chinese DNS R&D team, the Chinese domain name system is structurally based upon the existing English domain name system; it employs the resolution technology of the existing DNS to convert Chinese domain names into English ones and then to further resolve into an IP address. Thus, supposing if we would like to access the website of Socix, we can now key in "" on our browsers; and should we need to log on to the bbs channel named 'Mei Shu Ting' at Zhejiang University we can simply key in "". According to Mr Li, such Chinese domain names would be visibly more memorable to the general Chinese-speaking user than English domain names. Moreover, using Chinese domain names and Chinese email addresses would help enterprises in China to build up brand loyalty and can help millions of non-English speaking people to surf the Internet.

Academician Hu Qiheng said on CNNIC's press conference that 98% of the world is now connected online and the only reason why the Internet does not get broken up in confusion lies in the fact that strict management is maintained at the world's sole root server housed in NSI. She added, "The management of domain names does not allow confusion nor competition. However, the registration of domain names can be competitive." She predicted, "if the world allows but only two kinds of domain names; then besides English domain names, the other would have to be Chinese." Reportedly, the current millions of enterprises in China, plus governmental departments and various individuals and units who need to register for a domain name would reach a figure of billions. It is a big market no matter in terms of international registration fee rates (about US$35/annum) or local rates (about RMB$300/annum). This has thrown various firms and organizations into action: CNNIC has organized a media conference to address issues pertaining to Chinese domain names like ".cn"; net.cn has made press releases announcing registration service offerings for domain names like ".com" on NSI's behalf; China Channel and i-DNS.net now jointly offer registration service for ".com" domain names; chinew.com has also offered its "Free Chinese domain name booking service".

In retrospect of the whole Chinese domain name market, the real competition actually lies in a triangular tussle between CNNIC, NSI and i-DNS.net.

CNNIC Director Mr Mao Wei said, as the latest current development phase of the existing DNS, the Chinese domain name must first resolve the problem of localization. In response, local authority MII had already organized relevant departments in 1998 to begin research. In early 1999, CNNIC was commissioned by MII to officially research on developing a Chinese domain name system. On 18th Jan 2000, CNNIC launched its Chinese domain name trial system. By Oct 2000, successful applications for Chinese domain names totaled 80,000. These domain names shall be transferred to the new registration system. Upon upgrading, CNNIC would be able to concurrently offer registration service for Chinese domain names suffixed with ".cn", ".", "." and ".". To curb cyber squatting, CNNIC would also paternalistically reserve Chinese domain names of reputed local brand names, corporate names, generic industrial classifications, occupational titles, geographical terms etc. under the "." and "." listings.

CNNIC is the only one among the three to be officially backed, and now enjoys support from organizations like Ministry of Information Industry (MII), China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile and China Netcom etc.

NSI is the international supplier of about 19 million domain names and had monopolized the domain name registration market for years. Ever since it handed over the operational rights of the international TLD server to ICANN, NSI has begun to join in the competition for domain name registration.

The backend technology employed by NSI is actually supplied by i-DNS.net. The Chinese domain name offered by NSI follows the format of ".com", an advantage since the popular .com suffix remained the most convenient choice for users. According to analysis from those in the industry, since NSI is but an independent commercial firm, it would be bad from the point of domain name management to entrust such a task to a private company. It is the same case with the management of TLDs where NSI's monopoly had been broken and the task was entrusted into the hands of a neutral ICANN. It seems a necessary eventuality for non-profit organizations to take over the management of Internet resources of domain name kind, thus even if NSI succeed in monopolizing the Chinese domain name market it would have to pass operation rights over to another neutral non-profit organization eventually.

i-DNS.net is a Singaporean firm which has taken on internationalized multi-lingual domain names as its distinctive feature of its DNS; and has the operation rights to root servers for various languages. The firm has already introduced its non-English DNS technology into the markets of Singapore, China, Japan, Thailand, Egypt and America etc. Currently, i-DNS.net has a few partners operating in China: New Cyber and Canton Tekson- both offering registration service for domain names like ". "; and China Channel that mentioned ".com".

Who wins it all?

On 1st Nov, Mr Chen Yin addressed the media, "Motivated by profit, some companies and organizations have been promoting their version of Chinese domain name registration service in China and disrupted our nation's own registration service. This compromises the well being of our enterprises, and we object." He revealed, "the government is drafting policies to better manage the Chinese domain name market." Ms Hu Qiheng said, "The Internet belongs to the world, and to each nation too. Without nations, there would be no world to speak of; thus the need for domain names to be localized for the nations of the world. The current influx of companies offering different Chinese domain name registration services has confused our entrepreneurs into questioning CNNIC 'which is the best kind of registration?'. To ensue the uniqueness of a domain name, a management and coordination organization with final authority must exist. CNNIC is a non-profit organization commissioned by the government to manage domain name matters; and is thus responsible and obligated to undertake the task of managing our Chinese domain name system." She added, "Trial tests are necessary to ensure the smooth operability of the system, let's fight for Chinese domain names to become an international standard."

CNNIC maintained the view that domain name management rights must remain with it. Reportedly, CNNIC, TWNIC, HKNIC and MONIC have formed the Chinese Domain Name Consortium (CDNC) in Beijing on 19th May. CDNC had expressed its views pertaining the issue 'CDNC's stand on NSI offering Chinese domain name registration system' saying, "Upon the commercial offering of such registration services, the firm must explain and clarify certain facts and concepts to the common user to avoid misleading their clients. Some salient points include:

1 The various Chinese domain name registration services as offered on the market now, including NSI's system, are currently on trial test basis.

2 The act of introducing non-English domain names, including Chinese ones, into the TLD industry has yet to be officially approved by ICANN. ICANN had expressed on 25th Aug that it would be paying attention to NSI's trial test service.

3 The technique employed is but one amongst many others and is not the standard.

CNNIC also conferred on 1st Nov with China's 9 most established Internet units (namely China Telecom, Jitong Network, China Unicom, China Netcom, China Mobile, CIECC, CGWNet, CERNET, China Science and Technology Network) and ISPs like ViaNet, Capital Online, Capitalnet, Feverlink and 2911.net etc. in a bid to encourage relevant units to promote and use Chinese domain names.

To better link up internationally, CNNIC has taken some revolutionary steps in Chinese domain name registration system administration and management. CNNIC has announced that starting from 1st Nov it shall no longer process registration applications direct from users but would operate as a registry for Chinese domain name registrations and the operations and maintenance of the Chinese domain name database. From 7 Nov onwards, applications for the registration of Chinese domain names shall be handled by CNNIC accredited and commissioned registrars in accordance to the 'Chinese domain name management policy (draft)'. The introduction of competition into the Chinese domain name registration service would ensure improved quality of service. The first batch of 9 registrars accredited by CNNIC include Chinese Government Online Project, Jitong Communications, net.cn, chnmail.com, east.net, China Channel, sinob.com, eastcom.com and C-DN (HK). In response to the worsening domain name dispute situation, CNNIC has published its 'Chinese domain name dispute settlement (draft) policy' and the CIETAC has been appointed the arbitration unit in the provision of a faster, more convenient, impartial and reasonable dispute settlement solution.

The spokespeople from NSI and i-DNS.net collectively expressed that, in spite of CNNIC's recent activities, the market still reserves its rights of choice and only the international governing body IETF can name a standard for the Chinese DNS through a recommendation to ICANN. It is expected that the naming of the Chinese DNS standard will take another 2 to 3 years, or 12 months soonest. Besides, competition in the Chinese domain name registration market is healthy. Currently, there are 4.8million [.com] domain names registered in China and 80,000 [.cn] domain names; but due to the existence of competition the registration fee for [.com] did fall for a certain period to a low RMB$60/annum. An i-DNS.net spokesman said that their technology is absolutely compatible with the future international standard and domain names registered with them now will never face the danger of invalidity.

Those in the industry predicted that CNNIC's [.cn] and NSI's [.com] registration services would be staples in the market, but since i-DNS.net's offerings of full Chinese domain names are exactly the kinds offered by CNNIC it compromises the uniqueness of the domain name and would create confusion during domain name resolution. As such, Mr Chen Yin said that the policies, as drawn up by the relevant authorities that are beginning to pay more attention to Chinese domain names, might not be beneficial to i-DNS.net. The spokesperson for i-DNS.net said the company would adopt relevant strategies in reaction to the situation.

-- i-DNS.net shall not be held liable for the views and opinions of the authors expressed herein.
-- Translated Article
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