Wednesday , August 17 2022

Taking a look at an early IDN top level domain

IDNs haven’t been as successful as backers hoped.

Image of a computer and cup of coffee with the word "IDNs" overlayed on a green bar

One of the purported benefits of expanding top level domain options last decade was to offers domains in native scripts and languages to their users, so-called Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). Let’s look at an IDN ccTLD (not a “new” top level domain) as an example of interest in IDN TLDs.

.中国 is a ccTLD launched much earlier than the new Chinese IDN extensions, which came onto the market after 2013. I’ll focus on the .中国 (“China”) extension in this post and talk about the new Chinese IDN extensions in a separate article.

The birth year of .中国cannot be pinpointed precisely. In 2000, the Chinese Domain Name Consortium (CDNC) was formed to promote Chinese character-based domains. Registration of .中国 domains probably started in this same year, as evident in the registration dates of domains such as 阿里巴巴.中国 (Alibaba.china IDN) and 亚马逊.中国 (Amazon.china IDN). Technical details were worked on and improved in subsequent years while such domains could be registered within China. In 2010, .中国 was officially approved by ICANN and added to the Domain Name System for global use.

Below is a chart of the total domains under management of the extension based on data compiled from China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reports.

A chart showing the number of domains registered in a particular IDN

The chart shows a severalfold increase in 2017 but the cause is unknown. I could not find this same pattern in .cn or .com during the same period. Because investors are a major force in the domain market, sometimes you can see big movements caused by investor sentiment.

After the extension peaked in 2017, it started to fall gradually despite efforts of the Internet Society of China to promote it.

Compare .cn with .中国, both of which have 20 years+ histories. The former had 19 million registrations last year, but the latter only 1.7 million. Also, .cn has 100 million pages reported by Baidu. .中国 has 0 pages using the “site:.中国” search parameter. (Google is better, indicating 323,000 pages of .中国 websites.).

In my daily research of end users in China, I rarely come across websites built on this extension. So, I selected the first 10 brands from the Top 100 Chinese Internet Companies list compiled from the 2020 Research Report on the Comprehensive Strength of Chinese Internet Companies (2020年中国互联网企业综合实力研究报告) and then checked their .中国 sites. The result is shown below.

Rank Brand IDN Domain Status
1 Alibaba 阿里巴巴.中国 Not resolve
2 Tencent 腾讯.中国 Not resolve
3 Meituan 美团.中国 For sale
4 Baidu 百度.中国 Not resolve
5 Jing Dong 京东.中国 For sale
6 Netease 网易.中国 Not resolve
7 Pin Duo Duo 拼多多.中国 Personal site
8 Didi 滴滴.中国 Not resolve
9 ByteDance 字节跳动.中国 Not resolve
10 Tencent Music 腾讯音乐.中国 Not resolve

It appears that corporate China does not care about the .中国 extension.

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