Facebook looks to deal with local firm

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, April 11, 2011
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Facebook Inc is preparing to establish a brand new social-networking service with a Chinese Internet company, according to a person familiar with this matter Sunday.

"The cooperation between the two sides for now still remains confidential. An official statement will be announced soon," the insider told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

Hu Yanping, director of the Data Center of the China Internet, wrote on his Sina microblog Friday that Facebook had signed an official contract with a local Chinese Internet company to build a new social-networking website in China. However, he wrote, it will be impossible for the new website to be completely integrated with Facebook.com.

China had 457 million Internet users by the end of last year, an increase of 19.1 percent over 2009, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Facebook, the world's most popular social-networking website, has more than 500 million active users but has been blocked in China since 2009.

In 2007, the company registered the "Facebook.cn" domain name. In December last year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited China, and met some technology companies including China Mobile, Baidu and Sina. Some believed he was preparing a new move for the Chinese market.

Since the identity of the Chinese partner remains a secret, rumors have been swirling on the Internet that Baidu will be the local partner.

"There's nothing to say. We won't comment on rumors," said Kaiser Kuo, spokesman for Baidu.com.

Earlier this month, Baidu announced that it would launch a licensed music service called Baidu Ting in May, and that it would have an element of social networking. But Kuo said the new service is not related to Facebook.

Some Internet users said they were worried that the new platform would only have limited space to develop, since Chinese users have already started using equivalents of Facebook.

"But what I worry about most is whether the new website can last long in China," said Fu Liang, an independent telecommunications industry analyst.

"Entering the Chinese market means that Facebook has to change its original business rules. This begs the question of whether it can tolerate the changes," Fu said.

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