Should you invest in .cn or com.cn?

Kassey Lee examines domains registered in .cn vs. third level .cn domains.

.cn offers many choices to investors as the second-largest extension after .com. You can register a domain in the .cn extension at the second level, for example Amazon.cn and Godaddy.cn. In addition, you can also register a third level (subdomain) of a .cn domain, for example Apple.com.cn, SinoData.net.cn, and HydroPower.org.cn, which are subdomains of com.cn, net.cn, and org.cn respectively.

Direct registration of domains in .cn was not permitted when the Chinese extension was launched in 1990. Registrations were available only for third level domains of the following domains.

DomainDescription
Com.cnCommerce
Net.cnNetworks
Org.cnNon-profit
(adm).cnAdministrative districts, e.g., BJ.cn
Gov.cnGovernment
Ac.cnAcademic research
Edu.cnEducation
Mil.cnMilitary

This changed in 2003 when registration of domains in .cn was allowed.

If you sell a domain to an end user in China, they must apply for an ICP license to operate the website in China. An example of an ICP license can be seen on the home page of Amazon.cn. In recent years, as I understand, the Chinese government is very strict in confirming a non-profit organization status. Therefore, it may not be easy to sell org.cn subdomains in China. (adm).cn, Gov.cn, Ac.cn, Edu.cn, and Mil.cn are all restricted. Therefore, we are talking about three choices for investment purposes: .cn domains, or com.cn or net.cn subdomains.

Recently, I read all “China Statistical Report on Internet Development” published from 1997 to 2021 by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), extracted numbers of domains registered in China, and then compiled the data into the following table.

PublishedPeriodcncom.cnnet.cnorg.cn(adm).cngov.cnac.cnedu.cnOther (mil.cn)Total
1997.11996021313709955932325932504066
1998.719970655965722963256136341409415
1999.119980139131223409906982432531018396
2000.11999038776375394015162479500731048695
2001.120000962211329125963567461568211270122099
2002.120010991231404529433317586467313540127319
2003.12002013379620234958747747796172816290179544
2004.1200315807214077916189736932861176466619150340040
2005.12004193869173649201459415157651632668222260432077
2006.12005588748385847416021575237167237521602245401096924
2007.120061125846501400821902770032660285752027298871803393
2008.12007569500025350003350001640002200003500013000300009000000
2009.120088878139362937550533321870327833645555134383441613572326
2010.12009861210031055014246641817461071333497301045435921313459133
2011.120102629697135796916945564290678895215542763774194349524
2012.12011227597196075313091351428509615118533643910263528511
2013.120126158126105920212605958117455885288937114026417507759
2014.1201388747269925801255105975871305555207442941506510829480
2015.120148732073135574316762179757645225570244669550237011089231
2016.1201511729750240596974685511077911815145693812482168947416363594
2017.120161504474928037149381694029071343009535461532269377520608428
2018.12017167279222360535233738149957130997847941901763606520845513
2019.2201818569565213597825596515579370418391471026962568721243478
2020.42019196682682188326285090154872911392135911446626413622426900
2021.22020162749072136939285579150474852811793012341642218118970054

The choice is obvious: if you want the largest pool of potential buyers, focus on .cn domains instead of the com.cn or net.cn subdomains.

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