Our Chinese Domaining Masterclass series, which is still currently the world’s first and only masterclass designed to assist primarily western domain investors in successfully investing in Chinese IDNs, contains more than just numeric investment tactics and strategies. The masterclass contains over 120 pages of material, and only a few of those pages include numeric investing content. The rest goes over several different topics geared toward providing you with strategies to not only invest successfully in Chinese IDNs, but to also understand the often mysterious and complex Chinese culture, and how it influences consumer behavior online. Understanding the bigger picture of the Chinese culture can contribute to better operating your business to overcome barriers and grow.
Between our Chinese Domaining Masterclass and Top-12 Reasons to Invest in Chinese TLDs, there is a lot of valuable information that you can use to help your business grow in the massive Chinese market. One topic that crosses both of those planes is how Chinese text input works. Remember, one of our Top 12 Reasons is that entering fully-Chinese web addresses on smartphones, tablets and other devices is much easier and faster than typing English web addresses.
Today we’ll go over some different methods, challenges, benefits and deficits of Chinese text input, and how understanding these features of the basic, everyday digital life of Chinese netizens can put you one step ahead of the game in terms of understanding the behaviors of end users and consumers.
Chinese text input is based on the huge number of Chinese characters
With more than 80,000 Chinese characters (many of which are variants of the same character, with different variants used in different communities), the Chinese language beats English’s 26 characters by a wide margin.
All Chinese text input methods achieve the same result, regardless of their differing methods: they all allow a human to input Chinese characters into a computing device. Many use ASCII keyboards, others use special Chinese keyboard layouts, and the most recent class of text input methods allow the direct writing of Chinese characters on touchscreens.
The Pinyin Keyboard Input Method
The Pinyin text input method uses a standard ASCII-style keyboard to transform typed Pinyin (Romanized Standard Mandarin) into an on-screen pop-up menu of all possible Chinese character equivalents.
For example, to input the two characters required to spell “China” in Chinese characters, the user types the Pinyin equivalent of 中 (z, h, o, n, g) and then the Pinyin equivalent of 国 (g, u, o). Most modern Pinyin text input systems will use built-in predictive text capabilities to guess that the user intends to type “中国,” however other possible character matches for “zhong guo” are also displayed, including 中过, 种过, and 忠国. If the user intends to input one of the non-default possibilities, they can choose the one they wish to input by hitting a number key corresponding to each option, or they can continue to type in the hope that additional context will allow the computer to auto-select the intended characters.
The typical user of Pinyin typing can achieve around 50 characters per minute, with some experts achieving 100 characters per minute, however the speed of input is influenced by how common (or uncommon) the words typed are, as well as requiring a near-perfect grasp of Pinyin pronunciation, which is far from ubiquitous in China’s mainland, let alone around the world.
The Wubi keyboard input method
The Wubizixing Input Method is usually abbreviated to “Wubi” or “Wubi Xing,” and literally means “five strokes character model input method.”
This method was developed in the 1980s, with the first standardized and efficient version appearing in 1986. Unlike the Pinyin method, it is not reliant on how Chinese characters are pronounced, rather empowering the user to “build” characters based on “root” shapes of Chinese characters. Differing from the Cangjie method of applying “roots” to individual keys, Wubi divides the standard ASCII-style keyboard into four different zones.
Wubi is very efficient, allowing a proficient user to type up to 160 characters per minute. This efficiency is achieved by the relatively few keystrokes needed for each character – no Chinese character requires more than 4 keystrokes, with a majority of common characters requiring less.
Direct character input for touchscreen devices
With the explosion in numbers of low-cost touch screen devices manufactured and sold in China, the fingertip has fast become an important Chinese character text input method.
The direct input of Chinese characters by drawing them (including in their fast cursive forms) has empowered hundreds of millions of Chinese to easily enter Chinese into a computing device without the unnatural barrier of an ASCII keyboard. People whose pronunciation of Pinyin is non-standard or non-existent (such as those in the south of China, where Mandarin pronunciation is quite different from Standard Mandarin), the undeveloped regions of China’s west (where education is arguably less rigorous, and more agrarian) and overseas Chinese communities which never learned Pinyin or speak Chinese dialects different from Standard Mandarin have embraced direct character input.
Finally, the Chinese characters that every Chinese person individually knows and uses can be input to a computer without any special or standard spoken language training – they are input as they have been for thousands of years: using the hand and a pen, brush or fingertip.
The wide availability and popularity of direct Chinese character input is a key driver for fully-Chinese IDN domain names. Each direct character input method is slightly different for each device. Android, iOS, and Windows all have its differences, however Android holds the largest piece in the Chinese market share for smart phones.
The progression of Chinese text input, from the monstrous metal machines of the 19th and 20th centuries, through the adaptation of ASCII keyboards in the 1970s, through to a blossoming of keyboard alternatives in the 1980s and 1990s, and not forgetting rudimentary pen computing input from the mid-90s, into the touchscreen era of the 2010s is now culminating in the ultimate form of Chinese text input – voice.
By completely removing the need for keyboarding and even writing skills, and by the newest Chinese voice typing being adaptable to different regional and cultural pronunciation styles, direct input of Chinese typing using voice is, until a mind-computer interface is invented, the ultimate in convenience.
By aggregating the voices of millions of users into vast cloud-computing databases operated by companies such as Google, Microsoft, Baidu and Apple, a surprisingly excellent quality of voice typing in Chinese is available today. Price of entry: a fast and capable mobile device or PC, and a fast internet connection.
The authors of this guide believe that voice typing of Chinese is the natural future of Chinese text input. Once the convenience of near-real time typing is experienced, the typical user has no desire to return to clunky keyboards or arcane multi-key input methods.
The megatrend that is voice typing will be, in these authors’ opinion, be the single most influential factor to eliminate the use of English letters and Pinyin in domain names, as when Chinese people speak Chinese, Chinese characters are the natural and normal result.
The latest megatrend in personal computing is, of course, wearable technology such as smart watches. The leading platform in China is the Android Wear platform, which features “always on” voice recognition, and which works identically well as Android mobile phone voice recognition, as the Wear device is tethered to and uses the user’s phone as its computing engine.
As you can see, there are many different methods in which Chinese people can input text into various different devices. So how does this benefit western business owners and domain investors looking to crack into the massive China market? Simple: Chinese scripts and pinyin are far easier for Chinese people to use, whether it’s online or not. Fully Chinese language scripts make sense to a majority of the Chinese consumer base, so by using fully Chinese URLs, you are practically cutting out the roadblock of English and have a much better chance of reaching Chinese consumers.
Not only are Chinese characters and pinyin easier for Chinese consumers to understand, but it’s also much easier for them to type in on devices. Chinese characters may seem complex to a western consumer, but oftentimes Chinese people can input characters much quicker that we can in the western world with English!
In a nutshell, fully Chinese TLDs are better for Chinese consumers to input and understand, so your business should make it easier for them to do so.
Stay tuned for our next blog!
- ChopChop Domains Team