.COM is the First of Many Foreign Domain Extensions to Comply with Chinese Requirements for Real Name Verification
Simon Cousins and Matt Johnson, Allegravita, with contributions by Kassey Lee
A crucial pillar of China’s MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) domain name regulatory regime was completed this week, as Verisign’s .COM and .NET domain extensions were added to China’s real name verification (RNV) system, ending a lot of speculation about China’s next regulatory steps.
China’s Real Name Verification (RNV) system ties Chinese national ID cards and foreign passports to online or mobile internet content, including domain names and social media accounts, in order to keep track of who exactly is responsible for what content. China’s MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) has made clear that it intends to extend this standard to not only Chinese domain names but all domain names in the future.
Although China’s government hasn’t made any official announcement, according to China domain name insiders and industry sources Verisign is the first domain name registry to be required to comply.
Chinese domain name industry expert consultancy Allegravita predicts that Verisign’s compliance will break the logjam of new domain extension approvals in China’s mainland, a concern for many “new gTLD” domain name registries who are currently unable to allow their domains to resolve on websites hosted inside the People’s Republic of China.
Kassey Lee, arguably the domain industry’s most recognized Chinese domain name investment analyst said, “I think this represents a very significant step for the industry. There will likely be a lot of movement over the next few months in the new domain space in China.”
Lee, who blogs in English at the Coreile Newsletter, also pointed to an independent analysis on Admin5, a popular Chinese blog for Internet news, with screenshots from July 21st showing that real name verification has already been added to the registration process at 5778.com, a Chinese domain name registrar in Guangzhou.
Chinese registrar integration into the new world of requiring RNV on foreign domain names seems to be gradually rolling out. On July 25th, Allegravita documented the registration of the domain name “realnameverification.com” on China’s largest domain name registrar, Aliyun Wanwang (owned by Alibaba). During the successful domain registration and purchase, Wanwang did not require real name verification of realnameverification.com.
However the domain name’s WHOIS record showed status as “serverHold”, which according to Kassey Lee, means the domain name cannot resolve to a website, and selling/transferring the domain is not possible.
The check-out process allowed us to skip the submission of a real Chinese ID card number
A Policy with Precedent
According to China’s domain name administrator, CNNIC, China has more than 688 million internet users today, making the government’s perceived security situation increasingly complex. It is the burgeoning size of China’s internet that industry experts say is boosting government requirements for enhanced RNV procedures. China’s MIIT has indicated that RNV protects internet users from online crime and encourages a robust and healthy internet market.
Though certainly controversial from the typical Western perspective on privacy, RNV has been standard practice in China for more than a decade, and has only recently been fully enforced. China’s national domain extension .CN has been using real name verification (RNV) for many years, and China’s favorite social media platforms Weibo (微博) and WeChat (微信) have also required this practice since 2012. It has also been standard for over six years to present an ID or passport when purchasing a SIM card in China.
As with all other business in China, one must abide by Chinese law and custom in order to do business in China.
Allegravita welcomes Verisign’s long-anticipated compliance with China’s national RNV program, as this is a positive sign that China’s government is clearly moving forward with normalizing all non-Chinese domain names, and allowing them to compete with legacy that .com domains represent.