3GNIC (the 3rd Generation Network Information Centre) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Internet development company Asia Prime Network. Founder Clement Lee says: "In Chinese culture, a name is such an important component of a successful business that we believe Chinese domain names will rapidly become valuable assets".
As 3GNIC's Web site puts it: "BUSINESS.COM was sold for US$7.5 million, what will the Chinese equivalent be worth?"
3GNIC claims to be the first and only domain name registrar in the world to provide a fully automated realtime registration service and to issue successfully registered domains with Certificates of Ownership to assist authentication and ease future transfers.
Hong Kong ISP HKNet is also opening registration of Chinese-language domain names.
"i-DNS technology allows users to interact on the Internet in their preferred language and enhances the potential for e-commerce businesses", said Charles Mok, deputy managing director of HKNet. Mok added that this would help open up business opportunities in China, one of the fastest-growing Internet markets in the world.
Both operations use the Internationalized Domain Name System (i-DNS) from i-DNS.net International, which was developed at the National University of Singapore under the auspices of the Asia Pacific Networking Group (APNG).
HKNet says that i-DNS technology allows multilingual domain names to be used on the Internet, and will eventually allow registration of Internet domain names in 36 different languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, German, Finnish, Arabic, Hebrew, etc.
For Chinese characters, the i-DNS technology is claimed to support encoding systems in both Chinese Big5 and Chinese GB, with users able to access the same website using domain names registered in either encoding.
i-DNS.net provides a registry function and maintains a database of multilingual domain names encompassing the multilingual equivalent of generic top level domains like .com, .org and .net.
However, 3GNIC says that in order to regulate Chinese domain name registration and prevent cybersquatting, the firm has created a priority list of companies listed on Hong Kong's Hang Seng stock exchange.
Legal representatives of these companies can claim their Chinese domain names by registering via the 3GNIC Web site before 29 February 2000.