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.
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