I received an email from a company based in China saying that someone wanted to register my company’s domain name for the .cn domain but that they could help me grab it first. Is that legit or a scam? And do I really need to register the .cn domain?
Perhaps surprisingly, this sort of solicitation is simultaneously both legit, real and a scam. How can that be? Because they are correct that if you haven’t grabbed your domain name with the .cn suffix, someone else could ostensibly register it. There are a bunch of problems with this, however, including that there are over 100 different top level country domain suffixes (known in the biz as TLDs or top-level domains). Do you need .eu for Europe? .za for South Africa? .in for India? Probably not.
The second issue with these solicitations is that if you really do want to register your domain in, say, the dozen most populous nations on Earth, you can do so for almost all global top level domains through US-based domain registrars too. The Chinese domain name space is managed by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information. On that site you can find a list of overseas registrars authorized to register .cn domains. Easy enough.
I have to admit some skepticism too, because I believe that these companies invent the fictitious third party who wants to register your domain name. They send an email like this:
In the email, they claim that a “Mr. Sam LAU from STO Technologies Co., Ltd.” wants to register the .cn variation on my domain name. Does Mr. Lau exist? Is that what he’s really doing? There’s no way to verify.
Out of curiosity, I did email Celina back, asking “Can you tell me how much it would cost for you to register intuitive.cn on my behalf? And how is that any different from me registering it myself through GoDaddy or one of the other US-based companies?”
Interestingly, the response didn’t answer any of my questions:
Here’s the thing though: China is a huge market for products, but are they your customers? If you don’t do business in the country, seems quite unlikely that you’ll need to worry about having a “.cn” domain to go with your “.com” or “.net” or similar. Further, over and above everything else we’ve discussed, if a company overseas has a similar domain and site just to confuse customers, you can go after them through the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). You can only do that if you have a properly registered trademark for your domain and business name, but it’s yet another possibility.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how important getting a “.CN” version of your domain is to your business, both today and into the future. I’m not worried about it myself, though I did toy with getting a “.uk” domain for a while…