Following public criticism from Chinese authorities of its Chinese domain name registration service, a senior official at VeriSign Global Registry Services (GRS) subsidiary Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) has downplayed the possibility of any negative effect on its domain-name registration business in an interview with Computerworld Hong Kong. In addition, the executive said NSI would continue to register Chinese-language domain names.
"The incident isn't that negative. There are just a lot of coincidences," said Arthur Chang, Asia-Pacific managing director of NSI. "This is only the beginning (of determining how Chinese domain names will be handled.) There can be unlimited possibilities as to how it will unfold."
One win-win solution to the problem, according to Chang, is for the Chinese authorities, including the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) and the Chinese Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), to develop "an open, non-proprietary global standards-based approach" to Chinese domain name registration in conjunction with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Verisign GRS.
Chang said all of these organizations are currently discussing a global standards-based approach to Chinese domain names. However, when pressed for details of the talks and chances of the participating parties reaching an agreement, Chang declined to comment, saying it would be premature to disclose details of the discussions. Additionally, Chang said he is not personally involved in the talks.
Nevertheless, Chang believes developing a global standard for domain names is "doable," both in terms of technology and practicality.
"This will then be positive for everybody," he said.
Asked whether he agrees with a CNNIC statement that described allowing a foreign company to manage Chinese domain name registration as unfair, Chang described the statement as "philosophical".
"The Internet, strictly speaking, belongs to everybody. But if it belongs to everybody, it then belongs to none," Chang said.
"Someone or some company has to come out to help keep order, but that person must belong to a certain country or nationality," he added.
Though NSI's parent company, U.S.-based VeriSign GRS, owns the exclusive right to provide registry services for the .com, .net and .org top-level domains, Chang said the domain name registration market is opening up, citing the recent addition of new general top-level domains as an example.
It is possible that CNNIC's Chinese domain system with Chinese suffixes could become another general top-level domain, he added.
"Nobody knows today what's best (for the Internet). There's no precedent for us to follow and (the Internet) is evolving every second. What I am sure about is that everyone can air their opinions," Chang said, emphasizing that input from governments must be respected.
"The fact that we didn't take any action in providing registry services for Chinese domain names with Chinese (top-level domains) represents that we respect the Chinese government," said Chang. "At least, we're silently respecting (the rights of) the Chinese authorities."
Regarding the recent announcement by MII on making unofficial Chinese domain name registration activities conducted by registrars and resellers in mainland China illegal, Chang said the announcement only provides an overall framework for the regulations and many details have yet to be defined. NSI and its resellers will continue registering Chinese domain names until further clarification is made, he added.
As a sign that NSI, as a U.S.-based company, will not be affected by these regulations, Chang cited a VeriSign GRS press release. The release quoted Chen Yin, director of the Telecommunications Administration Bureau at MII, saying "China's (domain name system) policy applies only to Chinese companies doing business in China, not to companies outside China."
Asked whether Chinese authorities might block access to Web sites using Chinese domain names not registered with CNNIC, Chang declined to comment.
"Anything can happen in China," he said.
However, there are key considerations for the Chinese side, according to Chang.
"The rise of the Internet has lowered the cost for information exchange and related value-added services, which are beneficial to the (Chinese) economy as a whole. Besides, the World Trade Organization agreement aims to sync up China with international trade, of which the Internet (is an) an important international trading platform. (Blocking sites with non-CNNIC-registered domain names) will be a regression," Chang said.
And companies are lining up for NSI's Chinese domain name registration services. NSI has already received several hundred thousand applications, the majority of which are for Korean and Chinese domain names, according to Chang.