Top Level Design’s .ink has become the sixth new gTLD in the Latin alphabet to be approved for sale in China.
It was one of four new gTLDs given regulatory approval to begin operating properly in the country late last week. The others were all in Chinese script.
From Finnish-founded TLD Registry, .中文网 (“Chinese web site”) and .在线 (“Chinese online”) gained approval.
From local outfit Guangzhou Yuwei Information Technology Co, .集团 (“group”) and .我爱你 (“I love you”) were given the nod.
Under China’s Draconian domain name regulations, only domains registered via local registries and registrars may be used.
Registries from outside the country have had to set up a local corporate presence and agree to China’s censorship policies in order to be compliant.
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.
TLD Registry, the Finnish/Irish registry that runs two Chinese-script gTLDs, has ditched Afilias in favor of a Chinese back-end provider.
Afilias said tonight that as of Friday it will no longer be the back-end for .在线 (.xn--3ds443g, “Chinese online”) and .中文网 (.xn--fiq228c5hs, “Chinese website”).
The company said:
Afilias has been directed by TLD Registry to shut down the Afilias operated SRS’s for .xn—3ds443g and .xn—fiq228c5hs on June 17, 2016 at 00:00:00 UTC and transfer the registry files to TLD Registry and its new provider. In accordance with this directive from our client, the SRS will be shut down and the files will be transferred, and Afilias will no longer operate the SRS for these two strings.
TLD Registry VP Pinky Brand declined to name the registry’s new back-end provider, beyond that the winning provider is Chinese.
The new back-end will be named in the next day or so, he said.
Registrars have been informed about the switch, Afilias said.
It’s not yet clear whether TLD Registry has decided to switch providers for cost reasons or in order to more deeply embed itself in China.
The company was founded by and is managed by Finns and is legally based in Ireland, but it only runs Chinese-script gTLDs.
The Chinese government has regulations, and is proposing more, preventing Chinese citizens using domains that do not meet certain guidelines, which include a corporate presence in China.
Several registries are opening up offices in China in order to abide by these rules, but I’m not aware of any that have switched back-ends for that reason.
The two gTLDs have fewer than 30,000 domains in their zone files between them.
Donuts says that problems obtaining “licenses” from the Chinese government are to blame for the fact that it is yet to launch any of its Chinese-script new gTLDs.
Currently, four of the company’s portfolio of 156 gTLDs are in Chinese. Three have been delegated to the DNS root but none of them have been launched.
The first, .游戏 (for “games”) has been in the root since October 2013, but does not yet have a firm date for Sunrise. Another, .商店 (“shop”), was delegated just last week, almost a year after Donuts signed its Registry Agreement with ICANN.
Donuts explained the .游戏 delay with the following statement:
The Chinese government division which handles this area is MIIT [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology] and in conjunction with [.cn registry] CNNIC they are still to advise of the licensing application process. We hope to make these TLDs available during the first half of 2015.
No additional details were available and it’s not clear what licenses Donuts — which is based in the United States — thinks it needs to obtain before launching.
I’ve heard rumors that China may introduce a licensing system in future, but other new gTLD registries with Chinese-script strings in their stable have managed to launch their gTLDs just fine without a Chinese government license.
TLD Registry — legally based in Dublin, Ireland, founded by Finns — launched .中文网 and .在线 earlier this year and has tens of thousands of names under management.
Thousands of those domains, which match Chinese geographic names, were allocated to Chinese government, however.
“No licenses are currently possible, because the new law is MIA,” TLD Registry chief marketing officer Simon Cousins told us.
The .wang gTLD has seen great success, relatively, in its first week of general availability, crossing the 30,000 mark yesterday and entering the top 10 new gTLDs by registration volume.
At its current rate of growth, the Zodiac Holdings domain is going to overtake .在线, the highest-ranking Chinese gTLD so far, this week.
.wang went to GA June 30. After its initial spike, it’s added one to two thousand names per day and, with 31,011 names today, currently sits at 9th place in the new gTLD program’s league table.
That’s a whisker behind TLD Registry’s .在线 (“.online”), which had a strong start when it launched at the end of April but has since plateaued at around 33,000 names, adding just a handful each day.
A skim through the zone files reveals that the vast majority of the names in .wang appear to be, like .wang itself, Pinyin — the official Latin-script transliterations of Chinese-script words.
.wang, which would be “网” in Chinese script, means “net”.
To pluck a couple of names from the zone at random, I see tanpan.wang, which could mean something like “negotiation.net” and xingshi.wang, which may or may not mean “shape.net”.
I suspect that many of the registered domains are personal names rather than dictionary words. Wang is a popular surname in China.
The vast majority of the names also appear to be registered via China-based registrars, some of which are promoting the TLD strongly on their home pages.
There certainly appears to be a lot of domainer activity in .wang, but I haven’t seen anything yet to suggest a massive orchestrated effort that would throw out the numbers considerably.
Either way, I find it fascinating that a Latin transliteration of a Chinese word seems set to out-perform the actual Chinese IDNs currently on the market.