A Look At the Weird Wacky World of the Chinese Domain Business

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China is going to show the West entirely new domains and a different way of doing domain business, says Canadian domain expert Bill Sweetman.

The first-ever Global Domain Industry Summit to be held in China, was in Hangzhou from June 3 to 6, 2016. The event was organized by major Chinese domain companies, along with US domain giant GoDaddy. The event was focused on the topic of investment in domain names and speculation, or flipping domains.

“95% of the attendees were Chinese domain speculators and the Chinese service providers that are part of that eco-system,” said Bill Sweetman, President of Toronto-based boutique domain acquisition consultancy Name Ninja.

B2BNN interviewed Sweetman about his experience at the event by email upon his return.

Bill Sweetman

B2BNN: What topic did you speak about and how was it received?

Bill Sweetman: I was invited to the conference to speak about the “Western” perspective and philosophy of domain speculating, which is considerably different than what is going on in China at the moment. The Chinese have seized upon domain names as an investment vehicle and have quickly built a large industry around the rapid buying and re-selling of short domain names, most under 5 characters in length. Like real estate and gold, they see domains as another class of investment vehicle, but they really like the relative liquidity of domains. Their approach is very pragmatic and bold, and at times breathtaking in its ingenuity. Some larger domain speculators have bought entire blocks of domain names, e.g., they’ve registered every single four-letter domain in a specific domain extension. That’s a huge investment and a very bold move. The folks I spoke to were interested in hearing how they could market their domains to the Western world.

B2BNN: When I Google “China + domain registration,” the first entries after the ads are about domain scams originating in China and I think that’s the first thing that comes to mind when business people put domain registration and China in the same context. What was your experience and what do you personally now think when you put domain management and China in the same context?

Bill Sweetman: I’m familiar with those scams however I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to paint an entire country with the same brush. Every industry and every country has a few bad guys. What struck me about this conference was discovering that the Chinese have built up an entire eco-system of domain registrars, marketplaces, and related service providers (brokers, lawyers) in the last 24 months that dwarfs what we have in the Western world. Interestingly, they’re now also very concerned about protecting their legal rights as domain owners. Yup, now they are concerned about people stealing their intellectual property!

B2BNN: What do you think executives at B2B companies should keep in mind when doing business in China and managing their .cn domains?

Bill Sweetman: The business rule as it relates to domain names and domain registration and ownership are quite different in China and are evolving rapidly. The Chinese government is constantly re-jigging the playing field and this can make things — how should I put it diplomatically — complicated. I would certainly recommend that anyone wishing to establish an online footprint in China work with a trusted partner on the ground there. Luckily, there are a number of local and international service providers with offices in China that have staff that are fluent in English. And remember, too, that large chunks of the Internet are blocked/censored in China, so the typical Chinese person’s view and usage of the Internet is quite different from what we experience. Facebook, for example, is blocked in China so the big social network there is WeChat. And good luck accessing any of Google’s many services. Also blocked!

B2BNN: Did you see anything at the conference that you think will influence domain management in China, North America and around the world?

Bill Sweetman: The Chinese have taken a liking to some of the new top-level domains like .xin (which means ‘trust’ in China), .xyz and more recently .vip (the Chinese love anything that is VIP) so if even a small percentage of these domains get put to active use by Chinese companies then the global community is going to be seeing a lot more Websites using these new domains. By sheer volume alone, the Chinese may become the single biggest force driving awareness of these new top-level domains.

Photo credit: Bill Sweetman

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