Posted by Joel Martinsen on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 10:55 AM
Three fallen microblog providers
Update (2009.07.22): Jiwai is now down. Its homepage is now showing a Fail Whale, a Douglas MacArthur quote, and a question: "Jiwai has hidden itself away. Can you still find it?"
Twitter is blocked in mainland China. Fanfou (饭否), a local microblog platform, was taken offline in the week after the Urumqi riots.
Now two other microblogs have become inaccessible. Digu (嘀咕), where many Fanfou users migrated, is currently "upgrading its servers," as is Zuosa (做啥), after a morning of being completely unreachable.
There's also Tencent's Taotao (滔滔), part of the company's slate of QQ-related online products. Taotao's user base is rather different from the rabble rousers and activists that may have contributed to the troubles of other platforms, but its lack of a convenient search function may keep it insulated as well.
Ironically, microblogs only hit the mainstream in the last month. At the end of June, The Beijing News ran a feature on Twitter, and Southern Weekly printed a report on Twitter and other microblogs the same week that Fanfou was taken down. Southern Metropolis Daily ran a similar story mid-month, and other media outlets reported on microblogs throughout July.
Just yesterday, the 21st Century Business Herald described the makeup of the microblogging marketplace, focusing on potential profit models without mentioning the recent access problems.
After Fanfou's demise, Chinese bloggers and microbloggers have been predicting that other platforms would soon follow.
In a blog post earlier this month, Bumian (Xu Caixing) discussed why microblogs were destined to be marginalized on the mainland:
The post goes on to discuss the reluctance of Chinese IT developers to share their userbase as a contributing reason behind the lack of openness he mentions up top, and ultimately concludes that Chinese microblogs have cloned the form of Twitter without reproducing its spirit.
Of course, the analysis breaks down when "policy problems" turn out to be a bigger factor than the marketplace itself.
Digu, the microblog currently closed for upgrades, still has its image server online. Will it return? Will Fanfou and Zuosa be back? Or will Jiwai get itself harmonized first? There are lots of questions, but very little concrete information to go on.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.