Domain name boom as Chinese characters get the green light
Integration between the Hong Kong and mainland economies is expected to spur more enterprises to adopt the Chinese-character suffix of the '.hk' internet domain name for their Web addresses.
'We may be able to attract a larger number of applicants, including local companies and mainland firms doing business in the city, to use the suffix when the multilingual system for online addresses is introduced later this year,' said Jonathan Shea Tat-on, the chief executive of the government-backed Hong Kong Internet Registration Corp.
The non-profit body administers the .hk country code top-level domain name. This type of suffix denotes the location of a user, unlike the so-called generic top-level domain names such as .com, .org and .gov.
Shea said there is 'a huge potential' to double the total number of .hk registrations, which reached 183,231 as of last month, because 'having a full Chinese-character website address represents the next logical step for companies in Hong Kong and the mainland to enhance awareness of their brand in each other's market'.
This development follows the decision in October by the United States-based Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which oversees all internet domain names, to end the exclusive use of Latin scripts for website addresses and pave the way for typing Web addresses using characters from other languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Japanese.
'It is our hope that Icann will give us the green light to implement this new internet address system around June,' Shea said. 'The backlog of applications Icann must review, however, means the go-ahead for Hong Kong could be much later this year.'
The city's domain name administrator plans to offer the Chinese-character registration free to all .hk users.
'We see the Chinese and English .hk domain names becoming complementary to each other, fostering further growth of the internet community among the Chinese-speaking population,' Shea said. It is expected that most of the Chinese-character domain name applications will be submitted by corporate brands, government departments, not-for-profit organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises.
A number of early inquiries identified by the city's domain name registrar included privately held property company Sino Group and creative online exchange platform Anyidea.hk.
According to a survey by the China Internet Network Information Centre, more than 60 per cent of mainland internet users said they preferred to deal with addresses in Chinese characters to help search for websites.