Recently an executive in the domain industry asked me to comment on the main differences between China and the west in domain names. First of all, when people say ‘the west,’ I think they are mostly referring to the US. So the question now becomes: what are the differences between China and the US in domain names?
One difference lies in the domain extension. In the US, .com is king both in terms of registration number and domain prices. In China, .cn rules with its 20 million registrations (versus 11 million in .com) but .com is still the king in terms of prices. And I think this trend will continue because a domain name is considered the door to the world of a Chinese enterprise, and every Chinese company aspires to have a ‘grand’ entrance.
Another difference is in the love for numeric domain names. While I have not come across even one American company using a numeric domain name as its corporate website, I regularly see Chinese companies using numbers. In the domain industry alone, you can find 4.cn, 10.cn, and 22.cn being used as official websites. The most famous example may be 1688.com, the official website of Alibaba in China.
In most cases, a number when pronounced in English has no meaning. For example, 520.com is “five two zero” which does not mean anything and so is difficult to remember. However, when you pronounce 520 in Chinese, it rhymes with (sounds like) the Chinese characters 我愛你 (I love you), which is perfect for a dating website for example. Chinese consumers have no problem at all to remember this domain name. (520.com is owned in China but unfortunately does not resolve.)
The third difference is that Chinese companies like to upgrade their domain names to acronym names, which is not common in the US. For example, Jing Dong upgraded from JingDong.com (and 360buy.com) to JD.com and Zhu Ba Jie from Zhubajie.com to ZBJ.com. This is possible because these acronym names correspond to the fully spelled out Pinyin names. In other words, Chinese consumers have no difficulty remembering either an acronym name or its fully spelled out Pinyin name.
These three are the major differences between China and the US in domain names that came to my mind. There may be some more, which will be covered in the future if I find them.