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One Billion Internet Users

Jon Lawrence

Last week ICANN took another very significant step forward in the expansion of the internet by approving the delegation of a number of Chinese script IDN ccTLDs.

Although we have all heard statements that portray the introduction of IDN ccTLDs as being perhaps the single most important factor in the achievement of ICANN's "One World, One Internet" vision, we should take a moment to appreciate the true significance of this latest round of IDN ccTLD approvals.

There are over one billion people in the Chinese language community, an audience that until last week required some knowledge of the Latin alphabet to navigate the internet using the Domain Name System. Even with a basic grasp of the Latin alphabet, the painful usability issue of having to switch between Chinese and Latin keyboard layouts has been a significant barrier for many end-users.

The significance of introducing IDN ccTLDs into the Chinese language context is not just about improving accessibility, however.

We should spare a thought for the marketing managers who are tasked with communicating to an audience of over a billion Chinese consumers.

At first glance it seems like a brilliant opportunity, however it becomes a little tougher once you consider the following…

You're running a traditional advertising campaign. You have the right brand, you've developed the right message and you finally have people reading and wanting to respond to your ads. All that's required from here is the ability to drive website traffic directly from your advertisement, but you only have a Latin-based Domain Name at your disposal.

What do you think your chances of success are if your audience is unable to understand what your Latin-based domain name is?

Very little, next to none, even. In this context, the big bad (and expensive) world of search engine marketing is your only fall-back.

While I don't profess to be fluent in Chinese, the advertisement I have included above is an example of how difficult it currently is for Chinese marketers to generate effective direct response advertising and achieve messaging efficiency.

The latest round of IDN ccTLD delegations will change all of this and change it in a big way.

Once Chinese IDN ccTLDs are introduced, more consumers will be drawn to the internet as language and usability barriers are removed. Internet penetration should accelerate and marketers will find themselves operating in a world where the doors of direct-response marketing will be flung wide open. Message recall and direct, browser-based website traffic should improve dramatically and Chinese marketers will finally be able to include a website as the primary call to action with a high level of confidence that it will succeed.

When you consider these points in the context of the sheer size of the Chinese language market, it's easy to see the importance of this latest list of delegations to the overall success of the IDN Fast Track program.

Both China and Taiwan have had Simplified and Traditional script versions of their IDN ccTLDs approved. These are to be managed as 'Synchronised IDN ccTLDs', which means that both versions should resolve to the same address.

Hong Kong is spared this additional level of complexity by the simple fact that 'Hong Kong' is written using the same characters in both script versions. Domain names registered under .香港 will be issued both Traditional and Simplified variants, however.

The Chinese IDN ccTLDs that will soon be delegated into the root are therefore as follows:

China
.中国 (Simplified)
.中國 (Traditional)

Hong Kong
.香港

Taiwan
.台湾 (Simplified)
.台灣 (Traditional)

Recently, IANA also announced that three further IDN ccTLDs have passed the String Evaluation Phase. These are:

سوريا. (.syria — Arabic)

.新加坡 (.singapore — Chinese)
.சிங்கப்பூர் (.singapore — Tamil)

We would like to congratulate CNNIC, TWNIC and HKIRC on having their Chinese IDN ccTLD delegations approved. We would also like to congratulate SGNIC and Syria's National Agency for Network Services on passing the String Evaluation Phase.

AusRegistry International is a strong supporter of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Program and is a leading provider of IDN-enabled Domain Name Registry Software and Consulting Services to ccTLD Managers. We are currently supporting the launch of the Arabic script امارات. (.emarat) IDN ccTLD for the United Arab Emirates as well as the قطر. (.qatar) Arabic script IDN ccTLD for Qatar.

By Jon Lawrence, Executive Officer, Electronic Frontiers Australia; Board member, ISOC-AU
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Share your comments

Great Adding to the imbroglio Virendra Gandhi  –  Jul 12, 2010 9:08 AM PDT

Great Adding to the imbroglio

Great post Jon - Very well written Robert Rozicki  –  Jul 13, 2010 6:31 PM PDT

Great post Jon - Very well written and informative.

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