Nice piece on NPR (U.S. National Public Radio) called Chinese Find Number URLs Easier Than Letters. The piece has some interesting examples from China about using numbers as homophones for well-known Mandarin phrases because of lack of browser support.
For example, McDonald’s China website address isn’t www.mcdonalds.cn, it’s actually www.4008-517-517.cn. “5-1-7” in Mandarin means something along the lines of “I want to eat”.
Native language, non-ASCII domain names, or internationalized domain names (IDNs) on website addresses are possible, but not all that common. That will change over time.
There are a lot of legacy practices and web technologies out there that need effective workarounds as well as being culturally acceptable to users who want to do business.
Until, and if, IDNs become feasible, creative solutions such as numbers being used will continue. Interesting to see how Chinese companies migrate URLs and links to native character sets in IDNs over time, and what they do, if anything, with the number-based approach.