Houston Community News >> New Domain Names in China

9/28/2007 The internet was created during the 60’s and originally called the ARPANET. Once a uniform and standard addressing system was implemented on the already existing communications network, it became the Internet in the 70’s. The first time anyone tried to use the Internet, which was on October 29 1969, it crashed.

The making of what we today call the Internet was created by collaboration between several universities, primarily in the US. I was myself involved during my university days, with a modem the size of an ordinary suitcase. Then later, the military plugged in, as they realized they had a potentially stable communications system that because of it mesh structure could survive even a nuclear attach. It would be virtually impossible for an enemy to nock out every link and node.

Domain names, addressing and content was based entirely on the western alphabet and the already long established ASCII code, which nearly every computer still uses today. Then Asian countries wanted to use their writing systems as well. In the western writing we get away with using less than 100 characters to communicate, but to produce and read a news paper in Japanese for instance, you need nearly 2,000 characters, and a new system was invented to display Asian characters.

The addressing and programming system has remained in western writing to this day, but now the Chinese have announced that they will release a domain name system that uses Chinese characters in late October this year.

It will be a universally applicable domain name system in Chinese and will be available all over the world. Chinese is already the largest and most used writing system in the world. Having domain names in real Chinese, not just Romanized Chinese, can help get rid of the language barriers for the Chinese people in the world to access to the net and can also help Chinese enterprises to build up e-commerce platforms specially designed for Chinese located anywhere in the world.

Chinese characters are distinct and immutable, while their Romanisation can have many meanings. For instance the Chinese word “ping” can translate into over 26 characters and the word “tang” 49 characters, all with a different meaning. Which is the meaning the writer intends when writing Romanized? Sometimes you can guess from the content, but far from always.

If you write ChongQing, most people would immediately associate that with the 40 million people city in western China, but in fact Chong can be represented by 23 standard characters and Qing (pronounced ching) can be represented by 41 characters. In theory, the name Chongqing can be translated into some 1,127 place names, add variations in local languages. Written in Chinese there would be no room for misunderstanding.

The flipside of the new Chinese domain name system may prove to be a repeat of the upheavals with cyber squatters. People and firms who illegally register another firms name as a domain, and then ask for inflated prices to hand it over, or use it for devious purposes. Except for somewhat fluffy copyright laws, there are still no laws regulating this activity.

Some western companies have also been attempting to create their exclusive world rights to a particular name, for instance British Harrods. Would that mean that nobody else in the world with the family name Harrods would be allowed to use it in their business name? Harrods and a few others seems to think that way.

In China there are a few thousand names approved for use as family names, among 1.32 billion people. There are more than 95 million Wang (King), and 90 million Zhang (Plum) for instance.

We guess it is a case of “watch this space”. China is aiming to explore the moon, set up its own GPS satellite system, and it has already adapted its own mobile phone system, and it has been rumors that they are planning their own Internet as well. The good thing is that the new Chinese systems are compatible with the existing western, and that their existence seems to break the present US control of the technology and its use.

Bert felt is a Kiwi living in Chongqing in western China. He is CEO of a local consulting and service company Merkina Ltd. Merkina’s website www.merkina.com provides free information on doing business in China