Domains of our own
For websites, popularity and hit rates are an important measure of success. And some of that has to do with the domain name. Just ask Edmon Chung Wang-on, a Hongkonger who is developing domain names in Asian languages.
When Chung was in graduate school in Toronto, Canada, domain names in Asian languages were non-existent. Yet he and a few classmates were already developing a prototype.
'At the time only dot-com, dot-org and dot-net could be registered. We developed a multi-lingual engine which would allow domain names and e-mail addresses to appear in Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean, and Chinese,' the 36-year-old says.
After he graduated, Chung founded an IT company with the Innovations Foundation at the University of Toronto, which helped to obtain him a patent. In 2000, he was selected by Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper as a Young Canadian Leader. And his invention won an award for innovation from a Chinese-Canadian group of entrepreneurs.
Chung moved back to Hong Kong in 2005 and continued to work on developing Asian domain names.
'It's about embracing diversity and adopting a world view. A domain name is like an address and a direct navigation [tool]. Just think about all those internet users who don't speak and write English, and how they will be able to search your website if the domain name is in their own language,' he says.
Since 2006, Chung has been the chief executive of DotAsia, a not-for-profit IT company that promotes internet development and adoption in Asia. In 2007, the company launched the top-level domain name dot-Asia. Chung says it gives any local website a significant competitive edge over others.
'If anyone looks for any services or products in Asia, a domain name ending with .Asia will appear at the top of the list in a Google search,' he says. 'Even in Japan, such domain names will give you a second-top search result after dot-jp.'
This year the company has launched second-layer domain names using three major Asian characters: Chinese (both traditional and simplified characters), Japanese and Korean.
'We are hoping to extend the facility to other languages such as Hindi, Thai and Arabic next year,' he says.
Currently, DotAsia is run jointly by 29 members from 22 countries and seven regional internet bodies, with 250,000 registrations from around the world.
Anyone can register a domain name for between US$10 and US$50. All the registration fees are allocated to charity work related to internet promotion and computer literacy. 'One Laptop One Child' run by OLPC.Asia is one of the projects the organisation supports. It helps to distribute free laptops to children in rural villages across the region.
Chung is modest about his achievements, though.
'Unlike most children in Hong Kong today, I didn't get to really use the internet until I was at university,' he notes. 'But I did like to spend time thinking and daydreaming when I was a child, which is important for creativity.'
'I think today's youngsters are restricted by too many rules,' he adds. 'Under our education system, they have to study for examinations rather than for a thirst for knowledge. Outside school, they have all these extra lessons and things to learn, mostly scheduled by their parents. They just have no time and space to think.'