The Chinese Internet is very different from the American Internet. Anyone who believes that succeeding in the Chinese Internet is as easy as localizing their website to the Chinese language is in for a big surprise.
For example you need to consider that Baidu is the search leader in China, not Google - so your search engine optimization strategies will be different. You should consider filtering for offensive content as the authorities will not hesitate to block your entire website if any objectionable content is discovered. The demographics of Internet users in China are also very unique: Chinese users are younger, earn less income and spend more time online that users in the USA.
We’ve created this new page that compares the Internet in China and USA – it will help you understand some of the key differences and top websites in these very different markets.
I recently stumbled upon Chinarank, a Chinese website that seems very similar to Alexa Internet in the US. They provide traffic data on websites, lists of the most popular websites in China and even a toolbar (just like Alexa) that users can download and install in their browser. Most of the website is in Chinese, however they do have an English version for their special “Olympics Online Traffic Measurement” section that provides traffic statistics for the Olympics period.
According to Chinarank, the most popular Olympic-related search keywords in China on August 26th are (translated to English):
According to Chinarank, currently the most popular websites in China are:
The Chinese IT community is abuzz with news of the recent arrest of Hong Lei, author of the popular pirated Windows XP “Tomato Garden” Edition software. I’m not sure where the wacky “Tomato Garden” name came from but it’s no laughing matter – this pirated edition of Windows XP is estimated to be installed in many tens of millions of Chinese computers.
The pirated “Tomato Garden” edition of Windows XP is so popular in China because it does not require product activation, includes software/themes that beautifies the Windows XP user interface and comes packaged with other useful free + pirated software tools.
At one point Hong Lei earned more than 40,000 RMB per month, with most of the revenue coming from advertisements on his highly trafficked website www.tomatolei.com where the software is distributed, and payments from companies (eachnet.com and Yahoo China for example) for new subscribers that sign up for or use their services after installation.
The arrest was probably instigated by a complaint from Microsoft to the Chinese authorities, who are usually quite lax about enforcing intellectual property rights. While this is a step in the right direction, I don’t believe it is the start of a broad crackdown on software/music pirates in China – perhaps the authorities are just trying to demonstrate that they are at least doing something about the piracy problem amidst strong pressure and complaints from foreign software/music businesses.
After 10 days, CSDN is finally back online. The official explanation they offered for the outage:
A newly registered user had posted on his/her blog many links to download Olympics-related videos from P2P sites - because we did not remove this forbidden content quickly enough, CSDN was inadvertently shut down for 10 days. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused. In order for us to provide you the best possible service, please do not post pirated Olympic content here in the future.
Wow one errant blogger can shut down such a high-profile site (FWIW CSDN has an Alexa traffic rank of 768).. go figure.
Lesson: the Chinese government has firm control over the Internet in China, be prepared to face the consequences if you do not understand the current national conditions and play by the current rules and regulations. Rules and regulations can be quite fluid in China; the present Olympics-related general paranoia and lockdown is just one example of the fast changing environment in this country. Also, human cen sors are almost definitely required for any user-generated content website in China.
CSDN (China Software Developer Network, www.csdn.net) is an important and popular community website in China for software developers / Techies / IT enthusiasts. It hosts many active IT forums, blogs, knowledge base articles, IT news and an IT job hunting service.
However the website has been inaccessible for the past few days. The website’s operators have yet to issue an official announcement explaining the outage – very strange for such a major and well known website. Reports in the Chinese Internet indicate that CSDN has been shut down by the government because it illegally hosted some Beijing Olympics videos and CSDN might possibly come back online only around the end of September, after the Olympics.
This case is illustrative of the tight control the government has over the Internet in China. Beijing has been very aggressive with enforcing Oympics trademarks in the past few months and probably also became very sensitive to unauthorized Olympics videos after a Korean TV station leaked a video online of a Olympics Opening Ceremony rehearsal.
This isn’t the first time the government has shut down a website – some months ago the Chinese video sharing site 56.com was shut down for a few weeks, probably because they needed to make changes to obtain the official “online video license” from the government. Many online forums are shut down during important Chinese government events, e.g. during every Com munist Party Congress.
Nobody can escape the all powerful, pervasive BSOD - not even the picture perfect Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. In this case BSOD revealed itself during the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. Someone snapped this priceless picture of the BSOD sneaking up to Li Ning, who was suspended in the air lighting the cauldron : )
Fortunately, the BSOD was projected on a very obscure location on the Bird’s Nest so only a small number of people noticed it…
It is becoming more and more feasible for people in China to make a living by blogging. Sina.com, one of China’s biggest portals, hosts blogs for many users. About 4000 users are currently enrolled in Sina.com’s revenue sharing plan, which commenced in November 2007.
While the majority of them only earn about 400-500 yuan/month, there are also bloggers earning thousands of yuan per month. This is not bad considering that the current average pay for office/white-collar workers in China’s biggest cities is about 4000 yuan/month. The highest paid blogger earns about 40000 yuan/month (about 5800 US dollars/month, assuming 1 USD = 6.82 RMB)
The most successful blogs so far are those written by celebrities, or blogs about stock market investing.
China is planning to enable city-wide wireless Internet access in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Qingdao, Yangzhou and Shenzhen.
Wireless Internet access is already available for free within Beijing’s city center (Beijing WiCity English homepage) during the Olympics. By the end of 2009, wireless Internet will be available for all areas within the 5th ring road. By the end of 2010, the wireless Internet service will be available within the entire Beijing municipality.
Although the wireless Internet service in Beijing is initially free during the Olympics, usage fees are planned after the Olympics: 0.12 yuan/minute, 20 yuan/day, 60 yuan/week or 80 yuan/month. In comparison, currently GPRS access costs 660 yuan for 6 months and CDMA access costs 620 yuan for 7 months.
Wireless Internet access is already available in downtown Shanghai. The entire city will have coverage before the 2010 World Expo.
Guangzhou is planning to enable city-wide wireless Internet access in 3 phases, all to be completed in time for the 2010 Asian Games.
Specific implementation timelines have not yet been announced in the other cities. However in general, wireless Internet access in China’s major cities is expected to grow rapidly over the next 2 years, i.e. there will presumably be broad coverage in all major Chinese cities by the end of 2010.
According to this Chinese report, Bill Gates and family just arrived in Beijing and will be attending the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony tomorrow. The report claims that:
The Chinese will sure be glad to see him - in capitalist China most people view him as a total rock-star : )
Jing Jia is Baidu’s advertising product – their homepage is http://jingjia.baidu.com/ (warning: in Chinese; there’s currently no English translation). Like Google Adwords, Jingjia lets advertisers bid on keywords and uses the Pay-Per-Click model: advertisers only pay when users click on their ads in search results. Jingjia also lets advertisers define targeted geographic areas and daily spending limits.
However one big difference between Baidu Jingjia and Google AdWords is the presentation of ads in search results: Baidu Jingjia mixes ads into organic search results, rendering ads in the same font, colors and appearance as organic search results. The only way to tell if a search result is organic or paid is by looking at the hyperlink URLs - paid results undergo a Baidu redirect, probably to track click throughs. Most Baidu search users will not notice the difference between organic and paid search results. Contrast that with Google, which prominently highlights ads (with a red background) and mark them clearly with the label “Sponsored Links”.
Baidu also has another advertising product called Huo Bao Di Dai, which roughly translates to “Hot-Zone”. These are ads that appear on the right side of the search results page. Unlike Jingjia, Hot-Zone does not follow a Pay-Per-Click model. Advertisers pay Baidu a fixed fee to display ads for a fixed period of time – this is regardless of the number of actual click throughs or actual ad impressions.
Here’s a screenshot that compares Google Ads and Baidu Ads side by side in search results: