Since this is the Scene’s High-Tech special
issue, can you give your loyal readers the lowdown on the good, the
bad and the ugly scrambling for market share in China’s nascent Internet
Internet shminternet, it’s the same bunch of
Imperialists seeking to carve China up like a ripe watermelon. Your
ayi hates hype as much as she loves hanging out in Internet chat rooms
so she is eminently qualified to sort the facts from the chaff.
The internet business in China is still in its
infancy, but the mortality rate has been high. Here’s a brief no nonsense
tour of the nearly departed and how to avoid their pitfalls.
China Internet Corporation (CIC)
Armed with the domain names China.com, Taiwan.com and Hongkong.com,
CIC has attempted to position itself as not only the premier portal
for China but the matchmaker for major American Internet companies and
the Chinese market. While CIC has succeeded in bringing America Online
to Hong Kong, China.com’s traffic is almost non-existent and the site
was blocked within China until earlier this month. Taiwan.com has been
leased to a Taiwanese company, and the URL caused an uproar on the island
province when it was listed as a China site by a Taiwan search engine.
While Sohu (Search Fox) and its CEO Charles Zhang continue to garner
international press attention and commensurate investment interest,
so much fur is flying out of the boardroom it could support a small
carpet enterprise. Sohu is far ahead of the curve: they’ve got the brand
name, but their Mainland-only focus makes them an investment vacuum
for the next five years minimum. An exodus of top staff continues and
other start-ups with money and a better management structure are swooping
in to poach what’s left of the best talent. Shareholders Dow Jones,
Intel, and Nicholas Negroponte are reportedly unhappy with the management
of majority shareholder Zhang and his increasingly autocratic ways.
Sparkice was slated to open 100 cafes throughout China by the year 2000.
They are only 94 short of their goal right now. Their Internet Service
Provider (ISP) became quickly popular and then quickly unpopular after
subscribers tired of frequent cut-offs and realized that because the
default password was given to everyone and was difficult to change,
just about anyone could access any Sparkice email account. Has failed
to attract significant investment and the company operates like a state-owned
This is a joint-venture between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and
the Party mouthpiece People’s Daily. The People’s Daily’s own site is
far better. News Corp. mistakenly thought they would do for the Chinese-language
Internet what they have done for satellite television in Asia with Star
Also known as Yinhaiwei, this company was going to save Chinese users
from the horrors of the worldwide Internet and its nasty anti-Chinese
content by creating a Chinese Intranet. They’re now seeking foreign
capital to revive a company that is all but bankrupt.
With separate sites for North America, Taiwan, and China, Sina.com understands
that all Chinese do not necessarily want to read the same content. Their
North American site features an online mall for Chinese goods and sells
tickets to performances by Cantopoppers in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
During the recent flap over that thing in Yugoslavia, Sina.com’s forums
were perhaps the most active, and for a company whose site was blocked
two years ago, its prominence in a CCTV report about the Internet reaction
to those events confirms that Sina.com is the company to watch. Zhaopin.com
Zhaopin created a job search site to complement its physical world recruitment
service. The site now receives page views in the hundreds of thousands
per month and shows that money can be made from a Web site, in China,
right here, right now.