Friday, May 8, 2009


The internet became distinctively more Chinese this past week.

From The People's Daily Online:

The nation-wide popularization campaign for the use of the Chinese-language domain name ".中国 (China)" was launched in Beijing on May 7. People's Daily Online,, and have taken the lead in registering under the domain name ".中国."

So far, 90 percent of national provincial or ministerial-level government organizations, 95 percent of traditional media websites, over 90 percent of the 211-engineering universities, over 50 percent of China's top 100 enterprises and over 40 percent of China's top 500 enterprises have already registered to use the ".中国" domain name.

It is expected that within the next two years, China's mainstream websites will all be using the ".中国" domain name.

Read On
Who wants to get in on some cyber-squatting with me here?

In the past, I've found it weird that Chinese internet users are forced to use English words and the Latin alphabet to surf Chinese websites.

Let's use as an example. Tudou is "potato" in Chinese. That Chinese people have to use the pinyin of the name isn't right. 土豆.中国 would be more natural for a Chinese person.

In other internet news, China, unsurprisingly, is the world hotbed of spamming.

From Computer World:

Image from The New York Times

It's a great deal, if you're a spammer.

You pay US$700 to use a server in China that lets you send all the spam you like. It's called bulletproof hosting, and to the people who fight spam and cybercrime it's becoming a big problem.

Cybercriminals use these services not just to host servers, but also to register Internet domain names that they use for spam and online attacks. In a three-month period this year, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham traced more than 22,300 domains, all used to send online pharmaceutical spam, to just six bulletproof computers hosted in China, said Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the university.


Several dozen bulletproof hosting services operate worldwide, but the "vast majority" of them are in China, Warner said. Even scammers from countries considered soft on spam use the services because they are so reliable, he added. "Even the Russians use the Chinese bulletproof registrars."

The providers are upfront about what their services are used for.

Here's how one company, Tecom, promotes its service: "Usually, your web hosting provider will shut down your web site within days, or even sooner, if they find out you are sending bulk e-mails and directing people to your site on their server. Bullet-Proof Web Hosting helps you to direct customers to your web site, and you won't have to worry about being shut down because of spam complaints."

Read On
The internet is a confusing patchwork of servers and hosts. It's easy to see how it can be exploited and taken advantage of.

The New York Times a few months ago even asked: Do We Need a New Internet?
“Unless we’re willing to rethink today’s Internet,” says Nick McKeown, a Stanford engineer involved in building a new Internet, “we’re just waiting for a series of public catastrophes.”
The logistics of the infrastructure that comprises the 'net is all over my head, but I understand the basic idea that the internet, as it currently stands, could be better organized.


Ramesh said...

Not sure I agree with the use of .中国. If its a Chinese only site, OK, but the whole purpose of the internet is to break boundaries and be global. A non Chinese might not even understand how to type the characters, but might perfectly want to come and see, for example, pictures. Better for one global standard using Roman characters and then web pages can be in whatever language. I don't read Mandarin or Arabic, but I frequently go to these sites to listen to songs or see pictures.

Mark said...

I see what you mean, Ramesh. Having Latin characters in web addresses does standardize the internet.

But I can also see where the Chinese are coming from on this. I know that older people in China can't even read pinyin. Forcing the Chinese population, and people from all other non-Latin-based-languange speaking countries, to adopt this standard will really restrict the number of people who can access the internet.

So I can see both sides on this issue.

Anonymous said...


I understand your access point, but at the same time, let me suggest:

1) Older people are less likely to use and/or have access to a internet-enabled computer regardless;

2) Chinese characters are restrictive to users of all ages from almost every other nation on earth, who rarely have either the ability nor the knowledge required to type these domain names;


3) From the article, one of the main (if not the main) intents of the change is to allow China to develop and control its own Internet standard. You can see similar activity in the area of mobile phones, and I suspect that there are political and economic motivations at work here.

Since the change will alienate more internet users from additional content than integrate them, this seems on balance a poor idea (at least, if improving access is really the putative goal).

Mark said...

Those are fair points, Anonymous.

I realize that old people who can't read pinyin aren't going to be a major bloc of users, but there are going to be at least some from that age group going online.

It may very well be that this push for characters in the address bar is for political and economic control of where and how Chinese people surf the 'net.

China has the most internet users on the planet, so I can understand the desire to make the web environment more comfortable for them.

Personally, I detect a nationalistic tone behind the 。中国 phenomenon. Kind of like they are now playing by their own rules and not any other countries'.

Thomas said...

Maybe that's a stupid question, but how can people without knowledge of the Latin script use a computer keyboard in the first place?

I thought that Chinese characters are typically typed based on entering hanyu pinyin and then selecting the proper character from a list of characters with the same hanyu pinyin. At least my wife does it that way, and all Chinese computer keyboards I've seen so far have an English keyboard.

Mark said...

That's a great point, Thomas. One I obviously overlooked.

On my cell phone, there is an option for typing characters by stroke order. That, I have to imagine, is to accommodate people who aren't up to speed with the pinyin.

I'm not sure what the options are for non-pinyin users on a computer. In internet bars or other places that I've seen Chinese people use the internet, it's mostly been young people who seem fine using QWERTY keyboards.

Thanks for pointing this aspect of it out.

Thomas said...

I noticed that when my wife does online chatting with Chinese friends, or exchanges e-mails with them, it's quite frequently done in English. She says it's easier that way, because typing in English is faster and less complicated.

Anonymous said...

I think IDNs have thier place and would work best with a latin counterpart redirected that way you get the best of both worlds

Ramesh said...

Mark - Just gave you a "Blogger Friendship Award" . Read about it at

King of Men said...


Sometimes you have great things to say. Sometimes your ignorance (or is it arrogance? It's hard to tell sometimes) just leaps off the screen.

This post was one of those times (the others are your hilarious doomsday fear mongering about the current economic "crisis." You are clearly far too young to remember what the 70s economic crisis was like, but your reaction to the current one reaches near ROAD WARRIOR levels of dystopian hysteria and it undermines the credible opinions you have on other matters; though this post about .zhongguo falls into the, "speaking out of an ignorant ass" category.

Like Ramesh said, the point of the internet was to open access to information and technology. China has been against this, with its "great firewall" a clear indication of the direction it wants the internet to take, as well as SARFT's iron-hand control over who can start up sites independently, and what they can say (ask Douban about this, but you need a proxy first).

The establishment and state forced (Tudou would not have its license renewed if it didn't tow the party line) adoption of the hanzi .zhongguo is a part of that phenomenon.

I see ominous signs ahead, where a virtual Chinese intranet (as oppoed to the current state of the internet) will be established. Like Xi'ans ancient walled kingdom of Chang'An, the wall will consist of using a .中国 (.zhongguo) to keep many foreigner sites out, and to keep foreign information from getting in. It will be that much easier to "harmonize" (only in China or North Korea could the word "harmony" get bastardized into an ominous double entendre) .

While most mainlanders dont' access much of the foreign internet as-is, I see a two-fold, dubious thing happening here. Internet companies will charge MORE for access to the real, pure, true internet (albeit with the great fire wall in place, so it's still "relative" on the "pure," and, "true" parts) while they will offer up the same price for access to this new, .中国 intranet.

University campuses, already amazingly restrictive about access to many domestic and even more international sites, will basically block everything that doesn't have a .中国 url, if they don't adopt this potential .中国 exclusive intranet (and let's be honest, very, very ,very FEW foreign companies will want a .中国 url except to stop cyber squatting).

To support a .中国 initiative under the dangerously naive and culturally insulting insinuation that it is somehow "easier" for mainlanders is total bullshit.

For over fifty years mainland Chinese students learn the Roman alphabet BEFORE they learn the basic thousand-plus Hanzi that is the official language! Children know pinyin inside and out and Chinese use it daily when texting on their mobiles, typing on their computers (they have to type zhong guo before the hanzi 中国 pops up anyway, which thus negates the claims of ease of use you very clumsily put into your justification of the .中国 dns address.

Really. For a self-proclaimed student of Chinese, and an armchair pundit who wants to pontificate on the western media's coverage of China, you really shot yourself in the foot on that one.

Out of over a billion citizens, I would gamble over 90% of the populace knows pinyin, and at least 80% use it daily.

Your claims of a .中国 being easier for locals only contributes to a higher rate of illiteracy because the basic learning fundamentals behind mastering the hanzi pictography in mainland China is through use of pinyin - a system using the Roman alphabet! It's like saying someone can learn how to run before they can learn how to walk!

Your ignorance on the fundamentals of basic Chinese language acquisition for native speakers is in evidence here, as well as a dangerously - perhaps rose-tinted, partisan point of view based upon future familial relations - ignorant bias; they're on full display with your post.

Spend a day and actually research the reason the .中国 dns address actually exists. It is nowhere near as innocent and "for the people," as you presume. After nearly a decade of China pressuring the autonomous group who control assignment of internet address, they kow tow'd to Zhongnanhai because china was extorting them with threats of starting an intranet: which .中国 pretty much will lead to ANYWAY.

Really, stick to observations on daily life, or continue on your slow, dystopian doom saying of the world economy if you can't be bothered to actually research the entire history behind the establishment of a .中国 internet address.

Mark said...

Wow. I'm glad you're getting something out of this blog, King of Men!

It's good that you finally let out what's, obviously, been building up inside you for some time.

After reading your pwnage of me, I just have a couple things to say.

I know that Chinese people learn Chinese through pinyin. And I know that pinyin was developed in the 1950s. So there's no question that a ton of people know how to use it.

Your 90% know pinyin and 80% use it on a daily basis seems a bit strong to me though.

I had my fiancee's dad in mind when making this post. He's a reasonably educated fifty-something year-old man who has a decent job and lives a middle-class life in Xi'an. Qian was talking about getting him and Qian's mom a computer to use. Her dad in particular was resistant to using it because he would have to use/re-learn pinyin, something he hasn't used in decades.

Of course, young people know how to use pinyin. And probably 100% of them know it and 90% use it on a daily basis.

But I don't think China's older people know how to use it very well.
And certainly nowhere near 80% of Chinese people as a whole use pinyin on a daily basis.

In terms of everything else you say. The development of 。中国 could very well be a truly evil plot. But as you said, China already has clamped down on the internet. Sites are monitored. Youtube is still blocked now. So the evilness seems to be one of degrees.

I see what you're saying about how the 。中国 would make this easier and it could create the schism necessary for REALLY clamping down.
If that is the case, then yeah, this is a reason for concern. But as you pointed out with Tudou already needing license and the strict controls in place now, this is already the happening.

As far as my economic gloominess goes, I hope you're right and I'm wrong about all of this stuff. I'd be very happy if I end up with egg on my face about my thoughts that the unsustainable few decades that preceded to where we are now were in fact a normal period of growth.

I don't hope for dystopia or anything like that. I've certainly benefited from the world's economic development.

On a personal level, I'm just trying to come to grips with a financial system and world economy that has absolutely failed.

If you're right and things will be back to normal in a year or two (or eventually), then that's great and I'll be happy. I'm just not going to bank on this being the case.