Facebook’s Play on ChinaBy: Mike Fossum - April 2, 2012
With Facebook soon going public, and its founder Mark Zuckerberg in China once again, one might speculate how the social networking giant might traverse the largest internet market in the world, where its site is currently banned. William Moss at Rectified.name has compiled a chart describing possible scenarios regarding how Facebook handles China.
The chart suggests four possible routes Facebook might take when it ultimately addresses the issue with China:
1. Facebook core service comes to China without restrictions.
2. Facebook.cn splinter service or censored core service
3. Facebook buys a Chinese social network.
4. Facebook ignores China.
With 500+ million users, China is a market that is hard for Facebook to ignore. But it is also evident that there is likely little chance that the Chinese government will allow the full service site past its Great Firewall any time soon. This leaves the options of a watered-down Facebook that would comply with Chinese censorship laws, which would likely lead to all sorts of legal issues. Moss aptly describes China’s take on this sort of scenario – “Here is our 800 page list of conditions in 3 point type…. If we even allow it.” Still, all the hassle might be worth potential access to 500 million new users.
Another scenario could be Facebook acquiring its own version of Weibo, the “Chinese Facebook.” Without its own branding, it is unclear if there would be much point in trying to compete with an established Chinese social network that was built to replace the Western version of Facebook in the first place. Facebook would essentially be trying to market a fake Facebook to compete with the other fake Facebook, against itself.
A recent study has shown that China is far more engaged in social media than the U.S. Facebook is not going to ignore that country. Time will tell how Zuckerberg and Co. figure China out.