A billion Chinese speakers get easier access to internet
The web will soon be a lot more accessible for more than a billion people after the body that runs the internet's naming system gave the green light for the use of Chinese script.
Registries in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong will soon officially start issuing domain names in Chinese characters following the announcement by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
"One fifth of the world speaks Chinese," said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's president. "That means we just increased the potential online accessibility for roughly a billion people."
The ICANN announcement follows an earlier decision to allow Arabic domain names, and other non-European writing systems are expected to follow.
Jonathan Shea, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation, one of the bodies that will implement the changes, says Chinese people currently rely on search engines to find sites.
At the moment, Latin alphabet script domain names can make it difficult for some Chinese people to remember or guess the domain names of websites.
But many companies and organisations are only well known by their Chinese names and their branding and identities are often lost in cyberspace, Shea said, as they are forced to have their domain names in English.
"The availability of Chinese domain names will solve these problems once and for all," he said.
The China Internet Network Information Centre, the government-linked domain name registry agency, lauded the change as "a recognition by the international community of the Chinese culture on the internet."
A hotline operator at CNNIC said users had already been allowed to apply for and register Chinese domain names and some were already up and running.
He said more than 90 per cent of Chinese government agencies, news media websites and universities already had Chinese domain names, as well as more than 40 per cent of China's top 500 companies.