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New registry offers Chinese domain names

Hong Kong, South China Morning Post (Technology), 14 December 1999 -- Hong Kong companies and Webmasters for the first time can create Web sites with domain names in Chinese characters, thanks to new technology available through a Singapore startup.

Launched only last month, i-DNS is a domain name or Web-site address registry created by i-DNS.net International.

It provides a master database of domain names from which users and companies can choose.

It is similar to US giant, Network Solutions Inc, which stores three out of four of the world's domain names - including virtually all domain names ending in .com, .org and .net - but which registers sites only in English.

That has posed problems for Web sites aimed primarily at non-English speakers.

For instance, in the mainland, Web sites using numbers like 169.com and 8848.net have sprung up for users' convenience.

i-DNS will allow Web sites to register domain names in every language except English.

That means companies can create Web sites with accent-marks in their name, such as used in French or Spanish, as well as languages with non-Latin alphabets or character sets, such as Russian and Chinese.

i-DNS' first commercial partnership, with Taiwanese Internet service provider, TimeNet, resulted in an astounding 90,000 applications for Chinese domain names filed within the first four days - a rate of about one application per second, according to TimeNet.

Jerry Yap, corporate communications spokesman for i-DNS, said that although i-DNS had not expected that much interest, it was not surprising that "Asians really appreciate this".

"When we discussed our work at Apricot [a conference on Internet operational technology] earlier this year, it was really hard to get American support," Mr Yap said.

"People who know English don't see the significance [of the technology] like someone who only knows Chinese.

"We are working with commercial registrars to begin other language equivalents of .com and .net. In the next several weeks, there will be quite a few rollouts."

Hong Kong would be among the first.

"We are striking strategic partnerships with major [Hong Kong] ISPs - a few big ones, the ones with the largest market share," he said.

Like TimeNet, local ISPs will be able to register Chinese-language domain names for clients at a cost of about US$35 per name.

They will also help police in disputes over domain names and instances of "cybersquatting" - when users register Web addresses resembling trademarked names for the specific purpose of selling the domain name at a premium later.

i-DNS said it would mirror the dispute policy of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) the non-profit organization which earlier this year took over management of the Internet from the US Government.

ICANN ruled that domain names would not be handed out to parties who did not submit contact details in a move aimed at cutting down registrations by cybersquatters.

That would also make it easier to force companies fighting over domain names to submit to arbitration, though i-DNS officials said they would leave oversight of such matters to others.

"Our decision has been to follow in the spirit of ICANN's dispute policy," Mr Yap said.

The explosive response to TimeNet raises the question of whether i-DNS has already fallen prey to cybersquatters.

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