Sunday October 23rd 2011

The Great Firewall of China

Facebook, as I’m sure you know, is all but blocked in China.  And being banned in a country with approximately 500,000,000 Internet users and 1.6 Billion people is a pretty big deal.  Despite rumors (fueled by Zuckerberg’s “vacation” to China in December) that Facebook is about to ink a deal with a Chinese Internet giant, Facebook remains off-limits to most Chinese citizens.

This was not always the case, but after riots erupted in 2009, the government officially blocked the social network to help quench riots in what was dubbed as the next Tiananmen.  Imagine Tienanmen with Twitter and Facebook.

The Internet and China have always been a touchy subject for those in the Search world.  I recall a series of very odd meetings in 2002 when I was working for one of the big search engines and we had a bunch of meetings with people who were working for the Chinese government.

Search wasn’t as huge as it is now; it was so long ago that the search at Yahoo was still powered by Google.  In any event the potential client showed up looking to commission a Search Engine for China. It was a fascinating opportunity and one that we took a serious look at.

In 2002 there wasn’t that much Chinese Internet content out there so the scope of the job wasn’t huge, but the restrictions were challenging. In short the Chinese wanted to control the results displayed and exclude many sites, (which is still the case) but more challenging they wanted to prevent results for a large number of queries entirely so that they would return not just results with some sites excluded but no results at all for those queries….just to be doubly sure.  Essentially they were looking for a white list of sites they approved of, a blacklist of sites not to be indexed and another blacklist for queries not to be processed.

As I recall it was an extensive list there were hundreds of thousands of terms which we weren’t allowed to process. Eventually we ended up passing on the project. Not only was it technologically quite difficult, working with Asian languages is quite different.  As a result we decided to pass on the project.

It seems like even in these days when we are all connected in one way or another through the Internet, the Great Wall of China still persists; now it is also called the Great Fire Wall of China.

Tim Judd is CEO and Vice-President of eLocal Listing; the nation’s leading provider of content driven lead generation solutions.  The flag ship product is the Found Fast Multi-City Package which gets businesses found in top positions on the major Search Engines.

Check out more posts like this on www.elocalrocks.com.


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