So both Myspace and Friendster have their own China versions. Now Kaiser Kuo of Ogilvy Digital China Watch points us to a report on China Business News (第一财经日报) which cites an “industry insider” who says that Facebook plans to release additional language interfaces and intends to enter the China market as early as December this year. The paper also claims that “Facebook has given up its initial plan to set up its own China-based site like MySpace has done with MySpace.cn, but will instead acquire an existing SNS in China.”
But as Fons Tuinstra of China Herald notes, Facebook may avoid the Chinese internet censors by establishing a Chinese-language operation outside China instead of finding a local partner, but it may end up getting blocked almost instantly, like Youtube did (sigh…).
A commenter on Kaiser’s blog said:
Whatever they do i hope they seamlessly their link Chinese version to their English version. Click …and swithc language. Those who are perfectly bilingual ( which i am NOT) should be able to communicate with their Chinese friends in Chinese and with their non-chinese friends in english … without changing platforms. Otherwise 2 monoligual silos will be created. That would be – from a mutual understanding point of view- a missed opportunity.
And Rebecca MacKinnon, once again, hits the nail on the head:
Really too bad. If they do end up having to create different Facebook “silos” in order to be compliant with Chinese government censorship requirements (and maybe other governments with other language services too), it isn’t just a missed opportunity to provide a great global, multilingual service that many people would find incredibly exciting.
The silo-ing of social networking sites like Facebook (and MySpace China already) is a sadly missed opportunity to build bridges of communication and understanding between the Chinese-speaking world and the English-speaking world. God knows we desperately need better communication and understanding between native Chinese speakers and native English speakers these days.
Is this inevitable? Isn’t this situation also serving to “ghettoize” Chinese internet users instead of giving them a multilingual on-ramp to a global human network? If I was a Chinese internet user I’d feel like my government is holding me back by controlling the web in China so much that Facebook can’t open its doors for me to a global multilingual and multicultural network – a network that would be best not only for my social life but also for my career and business.
Earlier this week, we were treated to a very interesting tidbit of information by Thomas Crampton, and we suspect MacKinnon may have had this in mind when she wrote the above. According to Crampton, the Chinese internet rarely links to foreign websites. In fact, only six percent of the Chinese Internet’s hyperlinks leave China’s webspace! This information was based on a study of 40 million external links on 5 million pages of 15,000 sites in China by Professor Jonathan Zhu of City University of Hong Kong (and Tobias Escher has more). The geek in Shanghaiist finds all this very interesting. It is true, isn’t it? A significant chunk of this huge global jungle that we call the Internet really is just local activity. But we do wonder if similar research has been done for other countries and language groups on the Internet.
Ogilvy China Digital Watch: Facebook to enter China: CBN report
China Herald: Is Facebook getting itself blocked?
RConversation: Facebook goes to China… will it censor too?
Thomas Crampton: China’s Internet rarely links to foreign websites
Tobias Escher: The Internet is local and Chinese do not link abroad