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Analysis of the IDN New gTLD Applications

There has been a lot of excitement since ICANN revealed the list of 1930 applications for new gTLD yesterday at an event in London yesterday.

Even some of the strongest opponents of the ICANN’s new gTLD program have acknowledged there is a case to open up new gTLDs for Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). I am going to focus here on the analysis of the IDN applicants.

1) There are 116 applications for IDNs which is less than the 10% estimate I had prior. But what is surprising is the numbers for Chinese new gTLDs—73 applications1.

The simple conclusion is that most people are still not certain of the future of IDN TLDs but if it is successful, it is likely to be Chinese gTLDs.

2) The next two languages are 15 Arabic and 9 Japanese new gTLDs. But what is interesting is the lack of Korean, only 3 applications. Of the 3, only one comes from Korea (Samsung).

This is not to say Korean don’t use IDN as KISA has obtained “.??” via IDN ccTLD Fast Track. What I learn is that the Korean government has discouraged Korean companies to participate in new gTLD but to garner around .KR and .?? for local usages.

Commercially, there is also less interest in domain names as Korean Internet market has predominately used Keywords and Search Engine as their mean for navigation.

3) Verisign applied for the 12 IDNs in different “transliteration” of COM (Thai, Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Korean) and NET (Hindi, Simplified Chinese, Korean).

However, not all seem to be transliteration. Specifically, “.??” which, although may sound like “dot com”, has a literal meaning of “click and see” in Chinese. For example, I could have “??.??” which when you pronounce in Chinese (inclusive of the .), “car, click and see”.

Another example is “.??” that Verisign says is the transliteration of “.NET” (it is a stretch) has a very interesting local Beijing phrase for “Number One” or “Best”. I applaud Verisign for having very creative Chinese staffs :-)

4) Of the 73 Chinese new gTLD, about half of them come from Greater China but the other half come from non-Chinese companies.

While there is no rules to forbid any organization to apply for any languages, and there are certainly many Chinese (nearly 50m) that are not within Greater China, the primary market for Chinese domain names I guess would still be in China.

Given the complexity of dealing with Chinese market as well as the government, I am not sure how many of these companies are ready to take on China. Personally, I have been in and out of China for more than 10 years and based in Beijing for the last 4 years in preparation for new gTLDs. My experience is that China is not for the weak hearted.

Nevertheless, I hope they are prepared because there are some really good names which would be sad if they went to waste.

5) Because ICANN does not allow single-characters (see my previous article for a background), there are applicants whose intention is to apply for “?” (web) going for “??” (website) and “?” (shop) going for “??” (web-shop) instead. Both of these are going into contention with more than one applicant.2

6) Speaking about contention, there is a “non-contention” between “??” (government affairs) and “??” (government). These are not classified as equals at this time as the string is obviously different but unfortunately the meaning is similar.

What makes this “non-contention” challenging is that the first is applied by China and the latter is applied by Taiwan. ICANN is going have a difficult time resolving these.

7) Also on contention, we saw two Chinese Internet Giants, Sina and Tencent both applying for .weibo and .?? (the Chinese name for Twitter-like services). Both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo are having a cut throat competition in China right now. Sina Weibo claims 300m users and Tencent Weibo claims 400m users.

The fight for auction over this name is going to be interesting to watch.

8) The single largest gTLDs applicant based in China is Zodiac with 15 applications. This is followed by Hu Yi, a China-based registrar, with 4 applications. Surprisingly, the largest registrar in China HiChina has made only one application.

9) Some of the “funny” gTLDs in Chinese includes: “??” (click and see), “??” (Best), “??” (Gossip) and “???” (I love you).

These domain names are going the make the industry much more interesting moving forward. I hope to see more of these!

1 There is one application for ???? (Bridgestone) which interestingly comes from Japan. But Bridgestone in Japanese is ?????? so I assumed the intention should be for Chinese IDN.

2 Disclosure: Zodiac is applying for both of them and is in contention with Namesphere.

By James Seng, Vice President

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Any potential trademark issues? Thomas Barrett  –  Jun 14, 2012 5:25 PM

Dear James,

fascinating summary.  Do you see any possible trademark issues (where applicant does not match an obvious trademark owner) or objections filed by governments?

best regards,

Tom Barrett

Excellent analysis Mike Cohen  –  Jun 14, 2012 9:40 PM

One of the best reviews and analysis’ that I have seen… Good job J :)

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