What Is An ICP License and Does Your Company Need One?
There has been a common question recently that many clients have asked us. This question has been asked in many forms.
Some examples include:
- "Should our company get an ICP license?"
- "Can our company get an ICP license?"
- "If we don't have an ICP license, aren't we likely to be banned by the Chinese government?"
In this article I will clearly address these issues.
First of all what is an ICP license?
ICP License is short for Internet Content Provider License.
According to the Telecommunication Regulations of the People’s Republic of China Act No. 291 and No. 292 issued by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, all commercial websites run in China must register for an ICP license.
Under Chinese law, all websites operating in China are required to get an ICP license, or else it will be blocked. For a website that is hosted outside of Mainland China, getting an ICP license won’t be necessary.
I often hear agencies tell potential clients: “hosting your site in China and getting an ICP is a must”. But this is simply not true. There is no requirement to host your website in China to do business.
Of course, there are pros and cons to hosting your website in China and therefore obtaining an ICP License.
A fast website
Actually, what a lot of companies want is for their website to load quickly in China. One of the surest ways to have a website that loads quickly is to host it in Mainland China itself.
Resource-intensive websites will certainly benefit from the faster-loading times of being hosted in China. Conversely, websites that don’t expect a lot of traffic might be better off being hosted in nearby countries.
For some companies it makes sense to host their site in nearby countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Macau. By doing so, they avoid the difficult paperwork involved in getting an ICP license, while still enjoying the benefits of having a web hosting provider close to China.
Baidu pay per click advertising
If a company wants to use Baidu PPC do they need an ICP license? This is a good question and the answer is not straightforward.
October 2016 Update: In most cases, Baidu is now requesting an ICP license, even for non-Chinese companies. It still varies though. To know what the requirements are for your company, please contact us to learn more.
On the surface it makes sense to host your website in China, but it really depends on your website’s needs, as we have pointed out in a previous article looking at five myths about hosting a website in China.
I’ll summarize the five main points below, and then let you decide if your company needs an ICP license or not.
- Hosting location is not a factor in getting your website blocked in China. If you aren’t promoting something prohibited it won’t get blocked.
- Even if your website is hosted outside Mainland China it can still rank well on China’s largest search engines including Baidu.
- Using a .com domain is more preferable than using a .cn or .com.cn domain as you’ll be recognised as an international business. This is better for marketing.
- It’s possible for non-Chinese individuals and businesses to buy a .cn domain name should you want to go down this route.
- Hosting a website in a different country can be a risk, especially a country with very different industry standards from your own.
There is a follow up to this article explaining how to apply for and obtain an ICP license.
Cover image source: achang.com
Do you have any questions about ICP licenses and hosting your website in China? If so, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.