Wow. All that speculation, the flirtation, the obsession, but we never thought it would actually happen. Could it be true? According to Sohu and others, yes it could, and probably is. Following all the rumors and Mark Zuckerberg’s recent trip to China, Facebook has now reportedly signed a deal with Baidu.
No official confirmations of the news, but the Sohu article says that they spoke to an “inside source” who confirmed the deal. According to them, Facebook.com will not be unblocked, but instead an alternate platform will be created for mainland users.
Neither company has commented on the rumors, and we’ll be waiting to hear more. But Hu Yanping, the general manager of the Data Center of the Chinese Internet (DCCI), also wrote about the deal in his microblog confirming the news.
News is breaking as we speak that Baidu’s stock shares have skyrocketed in reaction to the rumors.
Observers are immediately pointing out that the hurdles to Facebook actually becoming a reality on the mainland remain substantial. Both the Chinese and American governments will likely need convincing. And it definitely doesn’t help that this comes in the midst of the worst crackdown on dissent in years.
Will Zuckerberg soldier through? Gady Epstien of Forbes thinks yes:
Ultimately, though, I still believe Facebook China will happen because Zuckerberg wants it that badly. So must Li: Baidu has failed to find the right formula for social networking in China, while Facebook clone Renren (soon to IPO) and Twitter-Facebook hybrid Sina Weibo have been hugely popular; Facebook.cn can be Baidu’s social solution.
Whether Facebook would take off in China if it could has been a matter of constant speculation and analysis. Local SNS competition is fierce, but Facebook has seen growth in Chinese users over the past few months.