Quartz has reported before on the global ambitions of Asian smartphone manufacturers, especially Xiaomi. Yesterday, the company made another move to help it expand: It changed its web address from xiaomi.com to mi.com. That may seem pretty shallow, but Xiaomi thinks the move has real value—$3.6 million of value, according to a number being reported by China Daily.
Now, we at qz.com should know a thing or two about two-letter domain names—in fact, we catalogued them all last year—and we can tell you that $3.6 million is a pretty staggering amount. Indeed, it’s a staggering amount for any domain name. The biggest domain name purchase this year, before Xiaomi’s, was whisky.com, which went for $3.1 million, according to DN Journal. According to our survey last year, mi.com was a “parked” domain, meaning that its website didn’t feature any content.
Xiaomi’s willingness to spend big on a couple of measly letters has a sensible explanation. For one thing, $3.6 million isn’t going to ruin Xiaomi, which has at least $360 million in funding, according to startup site Crunchbase. More importantly, a big obstacle to Xiaomi’s international expansion is its very name, which not everyone might know how to pronounce. (It’s “shao-mi”, where the “shao” rhymes with “cow.”) Mi, on the other hand, is simpler and friendlier. And Xiaomi appears to have dropped the “Xiao-” from its English-language branding altogether: Apart from the copyright notice, the word “Xiaomi” does not appear on the mi.com homepage. Everything else, from the MIUI operating system to the Redmi phone, and from Mi TV to Mi Bunnies (don’t ask), is simply, well, Mi.