ICANN today approved the first top-level Chinese language domain names: .中国 and .中國 for China; .台灣 and .台湾 for Taiwan; and .香港 for Hong Kong (China and Taiwan get two each because of Simplified and Traditional Chinese – whereas the characters for Hong Kong are the same in both).
This opens the door for domain names entirely in Chinese, which should at some level better serve the 20% of the world’s population that speaks the language. Currently, many Chinese specific websites can be found / entered using Chinese characters in a browser’s navigation bar, but the top level domains were still, up until today, exclusively in Romanized letters.
In China, although the country has .cn and .com.cn domains already (as well as .org.cn, .net.cn and provincial-level domains), .com is still the preferred top-level domain. Whether this will change with the introduction of fully Chinese domain names is yet to be seen. One disadvantage of course is that non-Chinese speakers will have a harder time finding the website, so it works both ways to an extent (there are people that are interested in Chinese sites that don’t necessarily read Chinese, but not that many probably).
Regardless, this is an overdue and welcome move, though it will be interesting to see in Mainland China how restrictive it will be to register these domains in the wake of last year’s tightening on .cn domain registration rules.