The Chinese internet I


There has been a surge in stories of late about the Internet search in China, sparked by Google’s call to move their search engine to Hong Kong. The Guardian has published an article on March 24 (see article), saying that companies in China sometimes get called up to remove online contents or have their websites suddenly removed. Financial Times (see article) has very comprehensive behind-the-scene reportage on this matter.

Chinese users can correct me if wrong, but I have never used Google too much when in the Mainland, simply because it doesn’t seem to provide as much as other engines such as Yahoo, Sina and Sohu. Perhaps it has to do with this ongoing row? In terms of design layout, the local Chinese search engines really suck, they are always so wordy, lacking in design and taste.

Look at Sina.com.cn:

And Sohu.com.cn

You will know what I mean.

I feel sad sometimes that Chinese users have to tolerate these really ugly and uncontemporary search engines. Everything is only in Simplified Chinese and I don’t know how its archiving works. The websites are also juxtaposed with flashing and colourful ad banners. It gives you a headache when you look at it for a long time. But if they are the better channels to retrieve information that they want…

In an attempt to poach Google’s customers, Google announced that its Bing searches are to stay in China. Okay…thanks for that. I also did a quick desktop search trial using Bing.com.cn, but it doesn’t work very well, and seems to trawl up very randomised, official-version websites. The globe image on the Bing homepage is rather ridiculous as well.

I would say, currently, that I like Baidu.com.cn much better in terms of searching for Chinese information, other than the popular but Hong Kong-based Yahoo.com.hk. In fact, Baidu looks like a Chinese-adapted version of Google, with more visual photos and a cleaner structure for finding what you need:

They use QQ (and for some, MSN) instead of Facebook. I remember several times, when I was in Beijing, and even in the UK, I asked some Mainland Chinese friends for their Facebook names so I can look them up, and they looked at me and said, what is Facebook? I don’t use it. I have QQ.

Not many of Mainland users like googlemail so much as hotmail or 163.com or yahoo.com.cn. This is highly related to the proliferation and user-friendliness of these website searches.

In China, the Blackberry devices are being launched without WiFi capabilities. The Blackberry to be sold by China Telecom is powered by the e-surfing function from the fixed line operator.

It is as if there is no one internet: there is a western internet, and a Chinese internet. These two worlds sometimes overlap, but for those who may only be able to access one world and not the other, it is a confusing experience to synchronise what one knows about these worlds.

According to Reuters, the Chinese internet user population has exceeded 384 million, with 86 million added in the last year. I am not surprised. Internet is a great way for the Chinese community to have access to the world of opportunities – for business, entertainment and education. With added wealth, higher living standards and the inevitable globalisation phenomenon, the trend is set to continue.

One comment on “The Chinese internet I

  1. honorarynewfie
    March 27, 2010

    Yes, many of the Chinese websites appear as a pile of chopsticks just thrown in a heap when it comes to design.
    Even my (Chinese) wife agrees that she ignores most of the content because they simply cram too much on each page.
    On the issue of whether the Chinese search engines provide a better set of results for the Chinese public or not, that has to be a matter of personal taste based on individual requirements. What I don’t like is the way so many Americans “assume” that Google gives the Chinese population what they really want. Have they ever considered that maybe the majority of the Chinese population really aren’t interested in American opinion ?

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2010 by in China, Cultures, Technology and tagged , , , , , , .

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