Last time I wrote that the new Mozilla entity in China is called 北京谋智网络技术有限公司, for which a direct translation to English would be Beijing Mouzhi Network Technologies Ltd. I should explain how the name came about. (But please remember the English name of the company is Mozilla Online Ltd.)
The first thing to note is that China operates on Chinese characters, which is not surprising until you realize the full extent of the rule is that English names are simply not accepted in business matters. For example, if a (ficticious) Mark Smith buys a house in China, he will be required to propose a Chinese name, go through a certification and notarization process to bind that name to himself, before he could obtain the title of the house, which will be issued in his Chinese name only.
Secondly, getting an appropriate name in Chinese is non-trivial. One major difficulty is that Mozilla does not translate literally into Chinese. Even if a name happens to translate, the natural translation may not be suitable. I was told by some IBMers in Beijing that they used to get calls from farmers who would like to buy tractors and all sorts of other industrial equipments, because the Chinese name of IBM was a direct translation of International Business Machines. So we had two choices. One was to go with a phonetic translation. The other was to come up with something that is not linked to the name Mozilla either literally or phonetically. Obviously we preferred the former if it would work out.
We thought about getting the wider Mozilla community involved in proposing names, until we realized, after going through dictionary pages, that there are not many workable combinations of words that resemble the sounds of Mo-Zi. Moreover, two-character company names are almost impossible to obtain in China these days, and we feared that our top choices could be quickly taken by others. So we ended up doing a small scale, private consultation, and quickly reached the conclusion that 谋智 Mou-Zhi was the best choice. (The fact that Mitchell Baker has a quite good background in the Chinese language was a happy coincidence and proved very helpful.) The Chinese name closely resembles the Mo-Zi sound (Mou in Chinese is pronounced exactly as the English sound of Mo in Mozilla), and it has a great meaning in Chinese (seeking wisdom). Plus the particular Zhi character in this case takes a fourth tone, which is usually viewed as a better choice as the ending character for a company name — it is the most firm, certain, and strong tone of the four tones in Mandarin Chinese. We kept quiet and went to try to register the name. And somewhat surprised that we got it.
The final note about company names in China is that they must be well formed. A name has three parts. The region/city where the company is registered, the name of the company, and the type of the business. Our type was determined to be “Network Technologies Ltd.”, and therefore we are Beijing Mou-Zhi Network Technologies Ltd., or 北京谋智网络技术有限公司.
Since we are on names, I could not resist relaying a story. Today a colleague at Mozilla told me that a Chinese community member emailed him with excitement that Gong Li was heading up the China operation but expressed skepticism about the suitability of her background. He thought it was the well-known actress in the movie Raise the Red Lantern. My colleague then half-jokingly suggested that maybe we can get her to be a Firefox ambassador. Anyone out there with the ears of her agent, could you please help put in a nice word?
Li Gong 宫力 (Gong Li)
Posted by: lgong