New Republic has posted an article uncovering the intricacies behind the overwhelming use of numbers in the URL of Chinese websites.
For English speakers, the absurdly long URLs seem like nothing but a reminder of the pains of math class, only existing to prolong our process of ordering online delivery McDonalds (4008-517-517.com). Why don’t they just use pin-yin? Why not use Mandarin characters?
Turns out, there’s a secret code that’s universally acknowledged between Chinese tech users, comprised of a clever collection of homophones and word associations.
New Republic reports:
The Internet company NetEase uses the web address 163.com—a throwback to the days of dial-up when Chinese Internet users had to enter 163 to get online. The phone companies China Telecom and China Unicom simply reappropriated their well-known customer service numbers as domain names, 10086.cn and 10010.cn, respectively.
Here’s a breakdown of some gems opting for the pun-ny homophones instead:
1688.com Pinyin: yāo liù bā bā which sounds like “yow-leeyoh-ba-ba” and vaguely like e-commerce site “Alibaba”
6.cn Pinyin: liù which sounds like the word for “to stream”, a succinct summary for the video sharing site
5 Pinyin: wǔ which sounds kind of like “wo”, leaving the number to represent the word “I”
1 Pinyin: yāo, the same pronunciation of the word for “want”
Using the same logic:
2 = “love”
4 = “dead” or “world” or “is”
7 = “wife” or “eat”
8 = “get rich” or “not”
9 = “long time” or “alcohol.”
Hence why 51job.com,”woyāojob.com” or “I want job.com” is the URL for the job-hunting site and 4008-517-517.com, the McDonalds online delivery site ends with “517-517”, “I want to eat-I want to eat”.
Why meddle with pinyin or english (which remains as cryptic as codes can get to many Chinese), when you can have perfectly memorable (and comical) set of meanings instead?
Chinese characters are also out of the question for companies wishing to remain attractive to non-Chinese speakers in an attempt to expand internationally.
The dilemma demonstrates the embedded U.S hegemony within the system,
ASCII, the character-encoding scheme that was long used on most web pages, is short for the “American Standard Code for Information Interchange.” In 2012, the United States refused to sign an international telecommunications treaty, supported by both Russia and China, that would shift the Internet away from its current U.S.-centric form of governance.
All in all, one can’t help but commend the improvisation that the Chinese have resolved to in light of the circumstances. We’d even encourage you to give it a go in your daily digital activities.
Just try not to get your 517 and 514 mixed up.
By Mandy Liang