While discussing the potential of Chinese IDN.IDN domain names on Namepros, a domain investor pointed out a fact that I overlooked — that the first Chinese IDN .中国 (China) was launched in 2010 but has almost no impact on the domain market.
Because of this fact, some argue that Chinese IDNs don’t have much future and the popular Pinyin is the way to go.
Here’s a suggestion for you. Visit v.baidu.com and browse the list of videos available. Do you see any Pinyin words? I found none — except the word “baidu” in the address bar of my browser. This is because Pinyin words are not used in the daily lives of the Chinese people.
A little bit of history. According to Wikipedia, Chinese characters were first used in 1200 BC, which means we have been using Chinese characters for more than 3,000 years. In contrast, Pinyin was invented in 1949 when the communists took over China.
Chinese people learn Pinyin at school but they use Chinese characters in their daily lives. If Chinese characters cannot be used, then Pinyin is a workable compromise. This problem happened in the Internet addressing system at a time when only English letters and number could be used in domain names.
In China, Pinyin domain names started first, took root, and have become very popular. Today, major Chinese companies own Pinyin domain names and many use them as their corporate websites. But, the contents of the websites remain written in Chinese characters.
This observation forms the basis of my speculation that Chinese IDNs will catch up and become very popular in the long term.
I think Chinese IDN and Pinyin have different roles. Chinese IDN can be used within China to help consumers to easily remember a company’s name. Outside China, Pinyin will remain important because even non Chinese can enter a Pinyin name from their keyboard to visit a Chinese company’s website.
Still, short Pinyin names such as Le and Baidu will likely continue to be popular both inside and outside China.