Hu Yong (胡泳): The Chinese Internet Industry Will Thrive Only If It Respects Individuals

Internet pioneer and Beijing University professor Hu Yong has posted a translation of his commentary, written for Southern Weekly in January, about new rules governing registration of domain names:

So is there no cause for criticism of CNNIC? Of course there is. The year end rectification of CNNIC’s domain names has been satirized as a kind of violent demolition of the Internet, which is not an unreasonable description. One manifestation of this “violence” is when dot-cn domain names were being promoted domestically this year. CNNIC not only used the banner of patriotism, it also encouraged domain registration companies to enter into a price war, even urging them not to balk at launching a so-called “The one yuan domain name campaign for all people and the national domain name launching plan.” The results of the promotion were startling: dot-cn domains quickly rose from 1000 to 13 million. But during the promotion, didn’t CNNIC know that regulations prohibited individual registrations for dot-cn domains? After these individual operators had already become an enormous group, CNNIC made another statement saying that, in fact, individual domain registrations have never been permitted in the system and must be strictly dealt with. This is like building a large department store and after using all kinds of means to solicit a large number of tenants, the department store suddenly announces that its contract with the store owners is illegal.

For whatever reason, CNNIC had been operating illegally for a long time but now this has effectively strangulated the life out of Internet entrepreneurship. Not only are individuals unable to register dot-cn domain names, even registered users will be subjected to inspection. There can be only one kind of grave consequence: Internet users will vote with their feet to escape the “violent demolition,” taking their business abroad. At the turn of the new year international domain name registration in China has suddenly exploded and dot-cn names have reduced dramatically.