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Companies market Web addresses in variety of languages

Hong Kong, South China Morning Post (Technology), 18 January 2000 -- Two companies are now offering Hong Kong customers registration of Web-site addresses in Chinese.

Local Internet service provider HKNet and a new company called 3gDNS.com are both charging HK$960 for a two-year registration, with HKNet charging an extra $500 handling fee.

That compares to the usual US$70 for registering a Web address for two years in English.

Both firms act as agents for Singapore-based i-DNS.net International, which developed the technology to handle domain names in more than 40 languages.

Its master database includes Asian character-based languages such as Chinese and Japanese, Arabic domain names that read right to left and symbols particular to European languages, such as accents and umlauts.

Domain names can be registered as any combination of letters, characters and numbers from the 40 languages.

Even obscene domain names, prohibited in English, are allowed, according to Clement Lee, chief executive of 3gDNS.com, although about 100 or so Cantonese-only slang words are not yet available.

In Taiwan, ISP Timenet has received more than 100,000 applications since it began registering Chinese domain names in December, according to Michael Ng, chief executive of i-DNS International.

Mr Ng said company names and names like business.com - whose English-language equivalent fetched US$7.5 million on the resale market - have received the most applications so far.

Adult businesses and domain names have been among the most popular on the Internet so far.

Mr Lee said 3gDNS had already received applications for domain names mimicking the titles of popular local pornographic magazines.

He said addresses using Chinese idioms such as "gung hei fat choy.com" ("happy new year" in Cantonese) and lucky-number combinations including 888.com had proved popular, too.

To help curb speculation in desirable Web addresses, HKNet is asking applicants to produce Hong Kong business registrations in the case of corporate-sounding domain names.

This solution has loopholes, as many prominent SAR firms are registered offshore in countries such as Bermuda or the British Virgin Islands.

"Right now it's still basically first-come, first-served," William Ho, HKNet's general manager of sales and marketing, said. The two SAR companies are refusing mainland and American applications.

Negotiations are under way between i-DNS and a mainland Internet company to register mainland domain names.

The i-DNS database only includes those domains ending in .com, .biz or .org.

Mr Ng said the company was negotiating with authorities to provide Chinese Web addresses ending in .hk or .cn.

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