China forecasts spread of Chinese domain names

China expects domain names that end in Chinese characters to be mainstream in two years

China has pushed ahead with deploying Internet domain names written in Chinese as it urges action to standardize their use globally.

China has solved most of the technical problems raised by Chinese-language domain names and is in the process of deploying them, said Zhang Jian, director of the international business department at the country's domain registration agency, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), in an interview Wednesday.

Within two years, the agency expects all mainstream Web sites in the country will have domain names that end in the two Chinese characters for "China," rather than the .cn top-level domain. It also expects those domain names to become the most widely visited by Chinese Internet users.

Next steps for the agency include achieving broader use of Chinese-language domains and standardizing their use worldwide. China and other countries have urged the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet's governance body, to pass an implementation plan for certain country-level domains in local languages at the organization's October meeting.

If the plan passes, then global root servers by next year should support the Chinese-language version of the country's top-level domain, said Zhang.

Chinese-language domains would boost Internet penetration in China and be easier for local users to remember than versions written in English, she said.

Some Web sites in China already support Chinese versions of both their top- and second-level domains. Local portal Sina, for instance, can be visited by typing in the Chinese characters for "Sina-dot-China." Nine in ten provincial and ministry government Web sites have registered local-language versions of their domain names, according to CNNIC.

But English-language domains appear to remain the most widely used in the country so far. Advertisements usually list Web sites written in English rather than Chinese, and many major Web sites currently do not appear to have Chinese domains that can be visited.

To promote the use of local-language domains, CNNIC gives registrants who apply for a domain name ending in .cn the same domain with Chinese characters as its top level as well. The agency also gives registrants both the traditional and simplified Chinese versions of their top-level domain, which prevents phishing and allows Chinese speakers worldwide to access the Web sites, said Zhang.

Simplified Chinese is the script for the language used in China and Singapore, while Taiwan and Hong Kong use more complex traditional characters. If a Chinese owner controlled only the simplified version of a top-level domain, an attacker could attempt to steal visitor information by registering the traditional version and drawing users to it instead.

Zhang spoke on the sidelines of a biannual meeting of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, the first the organization has held in Beijing as the country seeks greater clout in Internet governance.

China had 338 million Internet users at the end of June, the most in any country, according to CNNIC.

"China is an increasingly important country in the development of the Internet," Paul Wilson, director general of APNIC, told reporters at the event.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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