GoDaddy, Network Solutions Drop Chinese Domains

In a congressional hearing yesterday largely focused on Google’s recent move to stop censoring search results in China, network domain registrars GoDaddy and Network Solutions both testified that they had ceased handling registrations of new domain names in China. Both companies emphasized the policy changes were not a response to Google’s difficulties in the Chinese market, but due to new demands the Chinese government was placing on domain registrars—including that registrars supply identification documents for their customers registering Chinese domains…including pictures.

GoDaddy general counsel Christine Jones cited the “chilling effect” of the Chinese governments’ requirements, and said GoDaddy’s decision to stop handling new domain registrations in China boiled down to the company not wanting to serve as an agent of the Chinese government. Late last year, China’s Internet Network Information Center began requiring registrars handling .cn domains provide head shots, signed registration forms, and business identification from anyone registering a .cn domain. The agency also demanded registrars supply that information for existing .cn registrations, or their domains would be disabled. Jones testified that GoDaddy contacted more than 1,000 of its customers with .cn domains to inform them of China’s new requirements and that the information would be forwarded to Chinese authorities; only about 20 percent of those customers have provided the required documentation.

GoDaddy’s decision to stop processing .cn domains is apparently brand new; Network Solutions said it stopped processing new Chinese domains in December 2009, saying in a statement that it found China’s new policies “intrusive” and overly burdensome on its customers.

For GoDaddy—which has made a name for itself in part by pushing the limits on Super Bowl advertising—the move marks a step backwards from its apparently plans to expand its business in China. The company recently announced a new program to support payments through AliPay, China’s top online payment platform. GoDaddy currently claims to be the world’s largest domain name registrar.

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