Led by Professor Wang Yuen Fung from China, and Werner Zorn from Karlsruhe University in Germany, the email traveled from China to Germany with the message, “Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner of the world.”
In just 20 years, China has grown to have the world’s largest online audience. In the spring of 2008, it surpassed the United States in the number of online users with over 250 million netizens at the end of June. The U.S. had about 220 million users.
China’s online terrain is crowded and filled with both great Web sites as well as a lot of junk. Here’s a list of some of the Chinese Internet’s success stories:
Sina: One of the leading Internet portals in China, Sina has a strong breaking news site and runs a blog service.
Sohu: Sohu has long competed with Sina for the top portal site in China. Founded by Tsinghua and MIT graduate Zhang Chaoyang, Sohu has breaking news and online messaging and also runs the online alumni site Chinaren.com and a games and real-estate Web Site. In 2008, it scored a major coup by contracting to create and run the official Beijing Olympic Web Site.
Netease: Netease runs 163.com, the third most-popular portal in China. It also has a strong online games division that hosts many multi-player online role-playing games popular among Chinese male teenagers.
Tom.com: Tom.com’s Internet portal includes news and mobile Internet services. It also partners with Skype to offer online telephony in China. Parent company the Tom Group is a media giant, with divisions in magazine publishing, outdoor advertising and television.
Zhongsou: Another top search engine founded in 2002. It is a subsidiary of HC International.
Baidu: Literally translated as “100 times,” Baidu is China’s leading search engine, comprising a reported 60 percent of the market share. Baidu also runs message boards, a question-and-answer platform, and the online user-contributed encyclopedia: Baidu Baike. The company was founded in 2000 by two friends Robin Lee aka Li Yanhong, and Eric Xu, aka Xu Yong. Xu resigned from the company in 2004.
Google China: The second largest search engine in China runs a far distance behind Baidu with about 25 percent of the market share. Founded in 2005, Google China is run by Kai-Fu Lee, formerly of Microsoft.
Online Encyclopedias and Information Sites
Hudong: As China’s largest wiki site, Hudong’s online encyclopedia currently has 3 million articles written by hundreds of thousands of contributors. It was founded in 2005 by Tsinghua University, and Boston University, graduate Pan Haidong.
Baike Baidu: Run by Web portal Baidu, Baike Baidu was launched in 2006 and has 1.5 million articles.
Chinese Wikipedia: Created in 2002 by the Wikimedia Foundation, there are currently over 200,000 articles on this Web Site. As of July 2008, the site was blocked within China.
About China or Abang: Full disclosure here, About China is run by the New York Times Company’s About Group which pays me. But About.com’s first foray into China is shaping up be a great addition to information sites in China. Like About.com, Abang offers original guide-created content for the Chinese audience on everything from Chinese tattoos, to how to get the smell of mutton from your house.
Tencent QQ: Founded in 1998, Tencent QQ rules China’s instant messaging computer programs. The service is free and holds nearly 80 percent of the market share with more than 250 million subscribers. It has also expanded with a web portal, mobile services, gaming and ecommerce.
Tudou: Translated as “potato” Tudou’s goal is to “move couch potatoes from the TV screen to the computer screen.” Often referred to as the YouTube of China, Tudou is the one of the top two video sharing Web Site in China serving 100 million videos a day with 40,000 new videos published daily. Tudou was founded in 2005 by Gary Wang and Marc van der Chijs.
Youku: Youku was founded in late 2006, slightly behind its major competitor Tudou. The company works with a network of 250 media partners across China and Asia and is a major source for television news. It was founded by Victor Koo, former president of Sohu. Company heads say it is about the same size as Tudou. The two companies have been locked in a fierce competition for market share.
Xiaonei: Often called China’s Facebook, Xiaonei is a social networking Web Site serving 9 million users, mainly students. It was founded in late 2005 by Tsinghua University graduates.
Hainei: Another popular social networking Web Site said to have been founded by one of the guys that created the Xiaonei site. Hainei is supposedly less student-centered than Xiaonei.
Alibaba Group: The Alibaba Group runs the very popular business to business e-commerce Web Site Alibaba.com. Founded in 1999 by Ma Yun, the Alibaba Group currently has 32 million registered users from over 240 countries. It also runs the auction site Taobao.com, the online payment company Alipay, and purchased Yahoo! China in 2005.
Ctrip: Founded in 1999, Ctrip.com operates both Chinese and English travel booking Web Sites. The site says it is the largest consolidator of hotel accomodations in China.
Dangdang: As the largest Internet bookstore in China, Dangdang offers 600,000 kinds of books and other products.
Amazon China: Formerly Joyo.com, the company was purchased by online retailer Amazon.com in 2004.