MySpace loses out on key domain names in China

Updated March 26: MySpace has failed to register its Chinese language domain name, despite being just days away from launching its service in the world's most populous market.

China's 1.3 billion citizens will be able to create their own pages on the Chinese-language version of MySpace within days, according to Chinese media. The MySpace social networking service, which has more than 100 million users worldwide, is backed by News Corporation, one of the world's largest media groups. The company formally announced MySpace China today.

MySpace China Domain Name logo However, MySpace has failed to prevent a local domain-trading company from grabbing its Chinese-language domain name (shown in the graphic on the right).

Compounding the company's domain problems, other potential names, such as, have already been registered, one by a manufacturing company, and one by a blogger.

Of the five standard domain name formats for the China market, MySpace has secured only one, Other foreign firms have generally registered their Chinese language domain names as early as possible, to protect them from cybersquatters.

Local knowledge no protection

The apparent name registration lapse comes despite MySpace relying on experienced local talent in the shape of China-born Wendi Deng, who is the wife of News Corporation CEO, Rupert Murdoch. The company can also call on the expertise of former Microsoft China executive, Luo Chuan, who is now the CEO of MySpace China. Murdoch and Deng, who were married in 1999, are shown in the Associated Press photograph below.

WikiMedia image of Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng, from Associated Press MySpace's planned Chinese language name became widely known in China by the beginning of this year. However, despite this, MySpace did not register the name itself, and in late January, it was grabbed by another company.

According to domain name records and other online sources, the organization which has registered the primary Chinese language name for MySpace, ShenZhou TianTang (China Paradise), is based in the Southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, and has a history of trading in domain names. Contact information in domain name records includes a phone number and email address for the registrant, but no full names.

MySpace in Chinese

MySpace's Chinese name uses Chinese characters which sound similar to its English name. This Chinese name can be transliterated into English as 'Mai Si Bei', but it has no coherent meaning in Chinese – the characters have been chosen purely for their sound.

The MySpace Chinese language domain name as seen by Chinese web users is shown in the graphic above, and also here, in text that will not display correctly on operating systems without Chinese language support: 麦斯贝.com

Under the Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) system, Chinese users can type Chinese-language names directly into a web browser, which automatically converts them to an intermediate alphanumeric version, such as ''. All modern browsers, including Internet Explorer 7 and Mozilla Firefox, support this system – Internet Explorer 6 does not.

The MySpace Chinese language domain name as seen by Chinese web users is shown in the graphic above, and also here, in text that will not display correctly on operating systems without Chinese language support: 麦斯贝.com

MySpace China loses 4 out of 5 domain names

MySpace's Chinese arm, MaiSibei InfoTech, has only registered, and none of the other key domain names where Chinese web users would normally expect to find the site. was registered in 2003 and is in use by the YongQiang Group, a manufacturing company. As described earlier, 麦斯贝.com has been registered by a company in ShenZhen.

The simplest Chinese version of the MySpace name, 麦斯贝.cn redirects to a blog. The blog's owner has posted a large message reading 'if you'd like to talk to me about a certain domain name, I have to tell you that unfortunately the website at that domain name has not yet been set up'. The message includes a contact telephone number.

Finally, 麦斯贝 appears to be either unregistered, or at least does not resolve to a website.

Internet giants stumble in China

MySpace's domain name problems are the latest in a long series of missteps by Western internet giants in China. Google, for example, has been unable to secure the domain from a local ISP, and was reportedly forced to pay cybersquatters to win back other domain names.

Chinese laws do not make it easy for foreign companies to recover domain names registered by local individuals or firms. Challenges must be filed within two years of the first registration, and the complainant must prove that the 'cybersquatter' is acting with hostile intent.

MySpace has not yet replied to a request for its comment on this story.

Updated March 26: MySpace China has now formally announced the site. We updated this story to include this information. We also added more details elsewhere in the article. See our new article looking at political and religious censorship at MySpace China