By Jingwei Wang
The newest Chinese top-level domain (TLD) on the block is quickly overtaking the competition.
Within 48 hours of its public availability, .WANG – which translates to “dot net”, or “king”, and is one of the most common names in China – received more than 20,000 registrations.
After four weeks on the market, .WANG is the sixth most popular new TLD with 38,992 registrations, compared to the 33,948 registrations in 在线, meaning “online website” – which is ranked ninth, according ntldstats.com. With 171 TLDs now open to public registration, that’s quite an accomplishment.
As expected, major multinational corporations, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Rolex, are among the first companies to register within .WANG. With an eye toward protecting its brands, Amazon, registered Amazon.WANG during the sunrise period (when trademark owners get the first shot at registration) and snatched up almost 100 additional strings within the first minute the TLD became available to the public. 1800flowers also registered several of its brands, even though the company doesn’t conduct business in mainland China. The majority of registrants appear to be domain investors and companies with a strong Internet presence.
So, why would the Roman script transliteration of a Chinese word out-perform the new top-level domains in Chinese characters, known as Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)?
One reason may be that .WANG registration is cheaper than an IDN registration, in, for example, 中国, which means “China.” .WANG registrations are going for 49 RMB, or $7.90 a year, compared to 320 RMB, or $51.56 for 中国. That makes .WANG a bargain if a company is registering domains in large quantities.
Another reason may be that .WANG is more colloquial than .中国 (China) or .公司, which translates to “company”. So, for example, Amazon.wang literally means “the website of Amazon”. Almost all websites or brands can be associated with .WANG.
Counterintuitively, .WANG also may be more user-friendly to average Chinese netizens because it is akin to what they are used to. Historically, Chinese brand owners have registered in English top-level domains such as .COM and .CN. And the behavior of the big market players will always influence Internet user habits. At the least, .WANG serves as a stepping stone for the coming bulk of Chinese-character TLDs.
Eighteen Chinese character IDNs and two Pinyin top-level domains have been delegated so far, and over 60 more are in the making. As more come online, companies and individuals may find a better fit than .WANG, diminishing its popularity.
With .CN, .COM and .NET accounting for 96.9% of the 10.83 million domains names in the Chinese Internet market, new IDNs as well as Pinyin extensions offer a wide, open playing field.
The Chinese government, however, likely will stick with the IDNs, since it has been pushing for greater control over its citizens’ online activities. Domain registration in China must be accompanied by government-issued identification, and since 2010, China-based registrars have been ordered to delete domains that lack, or have inaccurate or anonymous, registration information.
It would be next to impossible for the Chinese government to enforce that rule for all registered domains -.COM and .NET names especially. Chinese IDNs would be far easier for the government to regulate since the majority of them are registered by Chinese/Hong Kong businesses.
Xiangjian Li, CEO of domain name investor Zodiac Holdings, which owns .WANG, told a Chinese news outlet he believes the Chinese government will stand firmly behind the use and promotion of Chinese IDNs. But that stands to reason, since Zodiac applied for 15 new gTLDs, 13 of which are IDNs.