China’s April batch of approved TLDs has been released, featuring three domains from Neustar and Uniregistry.
Neustar had its longstanding, 2000-round .biz pass regulatory scrutiny, while Uniregistry’s .link and .auto have also been approved.
While .auto is managed by Cars Registry, a joint venture with XYZ.com, its stablemates .car and .cars do not appear to have yet been approved.
The rubberstamping was made by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which administers the country’s stringent regulatory framework.
Clearance means that customers of Chinese registrars will actually be able to deploy and use the names they buy.
The registries have also agreed to strict takedown policies for Chinese registrants.
While MIIT appears to be announcing newly approved TLDs on a monthly basis, it’s a slow drip-feed. I believe there are still fewer than 20 Latin-script gTLDs currently cleared for use in China.
Donuts and Afilias have had two batches of new gTLDs approved for use in China.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology approved five Afilias TLDs and six Donuts TLDs last month. This means customers of Chinese registrars will now be able to legally use those names in China.
Afilias was approved for .info, .mobi and .pro, which were delegated following the 2000 and 2003 new gTLD application rounds and .kim and .red from the 2012 round.
Donuts simultaneously was cleared for .ltd, .group, .游戏 (“game”), .企业 (“business”), .娱乐 (“entertainment) and .商店 (“store”).
The approvals more than double the number of new gTLDs in Latin script to get the nod from MIIT, in what now appears to be a monthly occurrence.
MIIT approval means the chance of usage by Chinese registrants should go up, but it also ties these Western registries to relatively Draconian government policies when it comes to Chinese registrations.
GMO Registry and Radix have won Chinese government approval for their respective new gTLDs .shop and .site.
It’s the second batch of foreign new gTLDs to get the nod from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, following .vip, .club and .xyz in early December.
They’re also the first two Asian registries from outside China to get the right to flog their domains in China — GMO is Japanese and Radix is UAE-based with Indian roots.
Their new Chinese government licenses mean Chinese registrars will now be able to allow their customers to actually use .shop and .site domains to host web sites.
The registries in turn have had to agree to enforce China’s rather arbitrary and Draconian censorship policies on their Chinese customers.
The approvals were announced by MIIT December 29.
.site currently has about 570,000 domains in its zone file, making it a top-10 new gTLD by volume, while .shop, which launched much more recently, has over 100,000.
The ability for Chinese customers to develop their domains is no doubt good for the long-term health of TLDs, but it’s not necessarily a harbinger of shorter-term growth in a market where domains are often treated little more than meaningless baseball cards to be traded rather than commodities with intrinsic value.
The Chinese government has granted licenses to operate in the country to its first tranche of new gTLDs — .vip, .club and .xyz.
The agreements mean that Chinese registrars will be able to give their Chinese customers the ability to actually use their domains for web sites.
It also means the companies will be obliged to censor domains the government does not like, but only those domains registered via Chinese registrars.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the licenses, given to the Chinese subsidiaries of Minds + Machines, .CLUB Domains and XYZ.com respectively, today.
M+M CEO Toby Hall told DI that it’s “a great moment of support for Chinese registrars”, giving them a “very clear signal about which TLDs they can focus on”.
XYZ.com said in a blog post that some of its Chinese registrars (its biggest channel) are planning on offering discounts to celebrate the approval.
It’s always been possible for Chinese people to register new gTLD domains via Chinese registrars — it’s estimated that 42% of the 27 million new gTLD domains in existence today are Chinese-owned.
However, Chinese citizens need a government license if they want to launch a web site, and the government only issues licenses for domains in approved TLDs.
In addition to .cn and China-based gTLDs, which were the first to be given the nod, Verisign was approved earlier this year for .com.
Hall said that while .vip has been popular with Chinese domainers, the MIIT license means it can start to tap the small business market there too.
Obtaining the license means that the three registries, which are all based in the US or Europe, will have to comply with Chinese regulations when it comes to Chinese customers.
That basically means the Chinese government gets to censor pretty much anything it doesn’t like, up to and including sites that “spread rumors”.
Hall said that there’s no chance of this censorship bleeding out to affect non-Chinese customers.
M+M, along with XYZ and .CLUB, are using Chinese registry gateway ZDNS to act as a proxy between their own back-ends (Nominet for .vip, Neustar for .club and CentralNic for .xyz) and Chinese registrars.
“All of our Chinese web sites go through ZDNS, so only web sites going through ZDNS would be affected,” Hall said, referring to the censorship rules.
Hall added that he was “not aware” of there being a blocklist of politically sensitive strings that Chinese customers are not allowed to register.
The break between TLD Registry and former back-end provider Afilias may be even less amicable than first thought.
I’m hearing that TLDR served Afilias with a “Notice of Material Breach” of contract earlier this year, threatening to move its two gTLDs to a rival owned by the Chinese government.
There may even be pending litigation.
Today TLDR confirmed in a statement that it’s switching the roughly 30,000 names in .在线 (.xn--3ds443g, “Chinese online”) and .中文网 (.xn--fiq228c5hs, “Chinese website”) from Afilias to Beijing Teleinfo Network Technology Co.
Tele-info is a little-known back-end provider currently servicing four pre-launch Latin-script Chinese gTLDs.
According to TLDR, the company is owned by the Chinese Academy of Telecommunication Research, which appears to be part of the Chinese government’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
According to a source, back in February TLDR told Afilias that it would switch to Tele-info if Afilias was “unable or unwilling to remedy” unspecified contractual breaches by mid-May.
I don’t know what the alleged breaches were and neither company wants to talk about it.
“Afilias does not comment on pending litigation,” a spokesperson said.
“We are not commenting on contractual or litigation matters,” a TLDR spokesperson said.
TLDR said in a statement that the switch to Tele-info will help it get a Chinese government license, so Chinese registrants will be able to start using their domains. CEO Arto Isokoski said:
The completion of this milestone will hopefully pave the way for our accreditation with Chinese regulators, which ultimately allows our China-based customer’s names to resolve legally to a website hosted from within China.
It’s hard to argue with that logic — if it’s using a government back-end for its SRS, one can see how that would oil the gears of bureaucracy.
UPDATE 1753 UTC: Afilias has just provided DI with the following statement:
With respect to TLD Registry’s charges of breach of contract, Afilias categorically denies any breach of any kind whatsoever. Afilias has complied completely with our contractual obligations and responded to all requests for assistance with their various business priorities. Since we began supporting these 2 TLDs, Afilias has met every SLA and enabled the 2 TLDS to be 100% compliant with their technical and contractual obligations to ICANN. Afilias has provided 100% compliance on every SRS requirement, and maintained their DNS with 100% availability throughout the entire period of our stewardship. TLD Registry’s charges are completely without merit.