Number Isn't Up for Global Website ASCII URLs

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, it’s actually “5-1-7” in Mandarin means something along the lines of “I want to eat”.

Chinese McDonalds website uses numbers not text in its URL.
Chinese McDonalds website uses numbers not text characters in its website address: www.4008-517-517

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.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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