Web Addresses Go Completely Japanese

Back to Contents of Issue: July 2000

This article contains Japanese characters.

by Kyoko Fujimoto

On May 10, i-DNS.net International, based in Palo Alto, California, announced that it would start offering domain names in Japanese. With its multilingual Internet solution technology, i-DNS claims that it's able to support registration of domain names and email addresses in 55 non-English languages. For the service in Japan, i-DNS will work with three Japanese companies -- ASCII, interQ, and Crayfish.

The service allows companies and organizations to register Web addresses using Japanese hiragana, katakana, and kanji characters. For example, "J@pan Inc" could be registered as ƒWƒƒƒpƒ“ƒCƒ“ƒNBƒlƒbƒg (japaninc.net) or “ú–{”­‰p•¶ŽGŽBƒlƒbƒg (nihonhatsueibunzassi.net, meaning "English-magazine-from-Japan.net"), and those addresses would then redirect the user to www.japaninc.net.

Not that domain names in Japanese are completely new. Internet One Japan last November started registering domain names that contain Japanese characters. The domain names they accept, however, have Latin alphabetal "jp.in" endings. For example, Internet One Japan has its own address registered as http://www.nic.jp.io and http://ƒCƒ“ƒ^[ƒlƒbƒgƒƒ“.jp.io. Internet One Japan says that during the free registration period, which ended in April, it registered 7,000 to 8,000 domain names in this format. The number does not seem impressive, though, compared to the number announced by JPNIC, an organization that accepts English-language domain name registrations ending with jp, which got more than 60,000 requests over the same period. The new service by i-DNS might fare better because the entire domain name will be in Japanese.

Do Japanese want this service? i-DNS says its offering will allow new Net users who are less likely to have English skills, such as young children and senior citizens, to get online.

But Japanese who don't use the Internet don't do so because they are not familiar with computers, not because they are unfamiliar with English. The Internet itself is already Japanese capable -- software menus and commands have long since been localized, and a universe of online information is already available in Japanese. You don't really have to know English to use the Internet, you just need to know how to type. In fact, entering words in Japanese is often more complicated than entering them in English. If you want to type "ƒWƒƒƒpƒ“ƒCƒ“ƒN," Japan Inc in katakana characters, you would have to type "japan inku" first, press the conversion button to get the katakana characters, and press Enter to confirm it.

Still, this new service could become a good business opportunity as English domain names run out. The service is only available for already-existing domain names that end with .com, .net, and .org, but the company doesn't limit the number of Japanese domain names that can be registered under one English domain name.

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