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Understanding Numeric Domain Value in Chinese Culture

Numeric domains, especially NN.com, NNN.com, and NNNN.com, are steadily growing in value and have been selling, especially to Chinese buyers. These sales have been steady over the past months in particular and the past several years overall. Understand why and how a savvy numeric domain name can be vital to engendering business deals, partnerships and investment to a Chinese company online. Trust a domain name broker with strong, proven Chinese sales and insight into this cultural value to broker your numeric domain name sale or acquisition.

The Primary Value that Numeric Domain Names Provide to Chinese Language Users and Chinese Companies

The Chinese are a people of many languages, but no alphabet. Chinese businesses have historically used numbers or pinyin versions of Chinese characters to brand their websites. There are tens of thousands of Chinese characters, with every single word having its own associated visual character. In addition, there are numerous Chinese languages and strong numeric symbolism from Confucianism, Taoism, folk belief, and recent internet slang. This leaves numbers as the greatest commonly understood “language.”

Numeric domain names offer a higher value as they decrease linguistic confusion over the multiple options for phonetic spellings of characters (pictoral words, not alphabetical) from an almost endless supply of dialects of Mandarin, Cantonese, and other Chinese languages. Two of the top ten most popular domain names in China are 163.com and 360.CN.

All domains in China use either numbers or pinyin- it’s not possible to type a character like 度. It’s important to understand what pinyin is and how to type pinyin as it gives tremendous insight into the increased value of numeric domains in Chinese culture.

How do the Chinese use characters like 百度to make a domain name? They use pinyin, changing the 百度 characters into words with English language characters, thus spelling out Baidu.com.

“Input methods” are methods the Chinese use to input their native languages into Pinyin. They are based on either the phonetic sound or the actual shape of the root characters in the words. China’s biggest technology founder, Robin Lin, cites Apple’s failure to provide input method apps as the reason for Apple’s meager- and falling- 4.8% marketshare in China.

Phonetic input methods are easier for native speakers to learn, but they’re not very efficient because the user needs to choose the appropriate associated character as they go, averaging 50 characters- that’s not 50 words- per minute. Not only is the typing speed slower, but it’s also quite frustrating- as the user is interrupted repeatedly to clarify which Chinese character they are actually trying to convey.

Thus, there is an alternative option: an input method based upon the root shape of the artistically written Chinese character. This alternative facilitates precise and speedy input, but it has a difficult learning curve because they often require a thorough understanding of each individual character’s strokes and composition.

In addition to these two popular input method engines, there are other methods that enable users to write characters directly onto touchscreens, some of which are offered on mobile phones and tablet computers.

Numeric domains circumvent all of this. Domain names with numbers do not need any translation or editors.

In addition, there is a hard, limited supply of only 100 NN.com and 1000 NNN.com domain names. With the age-old factors of supply and demand, it’s easy to understand the value the Chinese place on numeric-only .COM domain names.

Additional Factors that Contribute to the Value of Numeric Domains in China

A numeric domain name adds value because of how incredibly liquid it is. A Chinese company can associate a domain name previously used for another purpose without issue. Not only are there a large volume of potential buyers, but there are also limitless usage possibilities for each numeric domain in the Chinese culture.

Overarching the actual language issue, there is a non physical, purely cultural factor in Chinese numeric domain name valuation. The Chinese culture- which makes up 22% of the world’s population- gives higher value to certain numbers or number combinations. This value ladder permeates the culture, applying to increased phone number costs for certain numbers or avoiding taxi rides with unlucky license plates. Numbers associated with prosperity are especially important in business, including choosing business partners.

The number four sounds like the Mandarin word for “death” and the number 8 sounds like both the Mandarin and Cantonese word for “prosperity.” Which cab do you think parents choose for their children on exam day? They pay a little extra to get the one with 8 in the license plate.

So, some words like sound or look like certain numbers, permanently associating those numbers with those words. The cultural esteem for numeric domain name values doesn’t end here. The 5,000 year old Chinese culture is steeped in belief in luck and the power of association. My friend Edwin is 12 years younger than his brother because his parents waited for the right numbers to align, numbers that match his father and grandfather. Those who know Macau, the gambling capital of the world, know that Las Vegas rakes in a mere 15% of the Chinese gambling capital revenue each year.

The Chinese culture values numbers in a concrete way that applies to special pricing for certain numeric combinations on license plates, phone numbers, apartment numbers, and domain names alike.

Numbers considered more lucky are valued more: to the degree that it’s not unusual for a lucky license plate to cost as much as the car itself. Not only are individual digits given particular associated values, but certain sets such as doubles and double doubles are more sought after and consistently priced higher. For example, I watched the $164,000 USD auction of a license plate A88888 a few years ago … In another instance, Lu Yao and her family spend the equivalent of $1,800 for a license plate APL128 just because those numbers matched her birthday.

But generally speaking, removing personal references like birthdays, numbers themselves are generally seen by the Chinese culture as neutral, lucky or unlucky. All numeric domain names have value despite these perceptions, though, because they offer significantly higher value than non-numeric alternatives as discussed above. When searching for a domain name sale or acquisition, utilize a domain name broker familiar with Chinese numerology.

It’s much more complex than simply looking at the digits 0-9, with proper interpretation of numbers more nuanced and linked in meaning to the spoken language itself.  Positive factors, for example, are generally associated with a numeric domain name due to phonetic associations with lucky words such as wealth, joy, prosperity and the most ancient arbiter of all luck, fertility or birth.

One: Domain names with the number 1 are often lower value because “one” sounds like the word “want,” which therefore must be lacking. However, with doubles being lucky, and the exploding mobile market and the limitation on NN.com domain names, Media Options was able to broker the second largest domain name sale of all time, 11.com in 2011. Other recent sales include 1001.com for $100,000 and 114.com, which sold in early 2013 for $2.1 million, one of the top 5 disclosed transactions in 2013. The pattern in 1001 and the brevity of 11 and 114 drove their higher value.

Two and Three: As in English, the Chinese have a saying about good things coming in pairs. Thus, the number two adds value, as do pairs. The root of the reason that the number 3 is lucky is that it sounds like the word for birth… But it’s not so cut and dry, as twins are considered unlucky omens and “250” means someone is “not playing with a full deck.” With this in mind, we would encourage any portfolio owner to reach out to a domain name broker for a proper understanding of a particular domain name value.

Four: Sounding like the word, “death,” this number is generally shunned, most particularly on license plates as automobile accidents are a major cause of death in Asia. There’s even a diagnosed fear of four called Tetraphobia… Just as we don’t have 13th floors on  hotels or other buildings, in Asia you often won’t find floors with the number four at all: no 14th or 24th floor, and no floors 40-49 either… The number four, however, can be considered a lucky double double when associated with joy or birth, as it sounds like “everything,” “all the best” or “everything you want you can get.”

Five: “Not” or unhappiness: negative. However, double negative is positive. Thus, 55.com, being incredibly short and valuable, is the highest numeric domain name sale recorded, at $2.3 million in 2011.

Six: Sounding like the words for wealth, flow, and business, it is reminiscnet of the idiom “liu liu da shun” (六六大顺), which loosely translates to, “everything will go smoothly.” It can also be used to signify the saying, “liù liù wú qióng (六六無窮) which means “six, six is infinite” — which can also be read as, “six, six is never poor.” While six is lucky, the double six connotes both of these two sayings, and is therefore far more desirable… and higher value.

Seven: Unique as it is lucky in both East and West. In the East, seven signifies luck for relationships. Therefore double is especially valuable- after all, “it takes two!”

Eight: Super lucky, as both the Cantonese and Mandarin word for eight sounds close “to be rich” or “prosperity.” Eight is ‘ba’ in Mandarin and ‘paat’ in Cantonese, similar sounding to ‘prosperity’ – ‘fa’ in Mandarin and ‘faat’ for Cantonese. Therefore, the number 8 is used to indicate money, prosperity, or good luck. It is the most desired and valuable number to have on an address, phone number, license plate or domain name. Double eight is especially lucky: who wouldn’t want double luck!

Major international airlines carefully choose the numbers for their flights to Asia. If you’ve ever flown to Asia, especially China or Korea, you may have noticed that your flight number began with the lucky number 8 (and didn’t contain the number 4.) Or, watching the spectacular opening to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, a curious mind may have wondered why the stunning Opening Ceremony was carefully tied to start on 8/8/08 at 8:08:08 Down to the tenth of a second: All for Good Luck! In Hong Kong, a License Plate with just a single numbered “8” was purchased for $6 Million USD to a billionaire business tycoon. And, a telephone number with all digits being eights was sold for USD $270,723 in Chengdu, China. It’s not uncommon for major sky scrapers to have 88 Floors. Frank Schilling’s Name Administration sold 88888.com for $245,000.

Nine: Symbolizes the emperor or harmony. The Mandarin word for nine is an exact homonym with the word jiǔ (久), which means forever. Very positive, very valuable…

Beyond 0-9, combinations such as pairs, numbers in sequence, and numbers ending in 0’s can have higher value for various reasons. Generally, there is a lower value for numbers beginning in 0’s or containing 4’s (but not 4 of the same number like 8888 because that’s double double which is joy). However, there are exceptions such as 09666, which sounds like the saying, “You are lucky forever.” Numeric combinations that sound like a saying can trump individual number associations, such as 589 (I’m forever rich) and 1314 from yi san yi si (一三一四) or yao sheng yao si 一生一世  (Whole life, forever) and 168 from yao liu ba (一六八) or yi lu fa (一路發) (Make money all the way), and 05966 (you and I are forever lucky).

The cultural value of numerology surpasses that of the west: it is quite concrete, when guided by an experienced domain name broker. The newer wealthy class in China is known to order vast quantities of food when dining out with someone to impress them, but not just for vanity. Physical auspices of wealth and luck are vital to engendering business deals, so a strong numeric domain name can mean partnerships, investment, and much more to a Chinese company online. Thus, a numeric domain name acquisition can be a very smart,  even vital investment for success in the Asian markets.

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