If you follow the domain name industry, you have likely noticed a trend in the purchase of letter only domains from new and old TLDs alike. While China has been making press this past year for their seemingly random acquisitions, the trend really started back in 2014. So why, you may ask, has China gone crazy with their purchase of LLL and LLLL domain names? Therein lies the question many domainers have. One answer is deeply rooted in the opposition of Chinese censorship.
Many young and tech savvy Chinese internet users began registering numeric domain names for a few reasons.
- Numeric domains commonly stand for Mandarin Chinese Pinyin acronyms.
- The usage of Pinyin acronyms can be used to bypass Chinese Internet censorship.
- Short domains are always in demand and sought after alpha domains were no longer available.
Now that you now have a basic understanding of why these short numeric domains are so popular right now, let’s delve a little deeper.
What is Pinyin and what are Pinyin acronyms?
Pinyin, as quoted by this Wikipedia article, is “The official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet in mainland China and Singapore.” That’s all well and good, but why is Pinyin popular? Pinyin has, over time, become the most commonly used method for entering Chinese text into computers in Mainland China. There is no alphabet. Not only that, but Pinyin is the most common way of converting Chinese names and geographic locations into an English equivalent. Given the context of the internet and usage of a keyboard to convey meaning, you can deduce why Pinyin is so important.
Demand is driven by the fact that these letters actually convey the meaning of dictionary words but represent a shorter way of writing them. They’re extremely trendy and the Chinese government is having a hard time keeping up.
How do Pinyin acronyms bypass Chinese Internet censorship?
The Chinese government has entirely regulated the Internet in Mainland China. A common term coined to describe this is “The Great Firewall of China.” The Communist Party of China (CPC), is responsible for Internet regulations including:
- Criminalizing certain online speech and activities (blanket of fear)
- Blacklisting a number of websites not deemed suitable for citizens (effectively preventing anyone from viewing them)
- Automatically filtering and removing blacklisted keywords from internet searches
What Pinyin acronyms have been successfully thwarting is the automatic filtering and removing of keywords from internet searches. In other words, Chinese citizens have started using slang to get around the restrictions imposed by the government. Think of this as a combination of acronyms and pop culture slang in America such as “YOLO” or “FOMO”.
How do you convert a word to a Pinyin acronym?
There’s several online tools that can help you convert a word into a Pinyin acronym. As an explanation is quite lengthy in of itself and we’re by no means experts in Chinese, we recommend you refer to these tools in order to perform your own conversions.
- Chinese to Pinyin/Zhuyin Converter with Pronunciation
- Chinese to Pinyin converter by Chinese Tools
- Yabla Chinese is a Chinese English Dictionary with Pinyin and Strokes. Not only can it handle city names, but it can also handle general Chinese Pinyin names.
Where to learn more about Pinyin
If you’re interested in a fascinating read on the topic of Pinyin acronyms, check out this article entitled “From OMG to TMD – Internet and Pinyin acronyms in Mandarin Chinese.” Here’s a further list of resources we recommend checking out: