Cash-strapped Minsi blog website (http://www.blogms.com), virtual home to a million of bloggers is to close down on August 1, according to an announcement published on the website on July 18.
Other blog sites including Sina, Sohu and Hexun have been busying themselves this week trying to woo Minsi bloggers with removal or transfer assistance and welcome letters.
Individual blogs are extremely popular in China, but maintaining them is proving a challenge, particularly for small Blog Service Providers (BSPs).
"Minsi couldn't develop the scale necessary for long-term survival; that's why it has to be closed down." Liu Jun, chief editor of Hexun, said.
Minsi ranks about 10,000th, according to the Alexa website rankings. It doesn't have enough active users. Wang Jian, Minsi's administrator, has been pumping in his own funds to keep it going. He just can't anymore.
As the August 1 deadline draws near, Minsi bloggers are racing to remove their blogs, the result of hours of painstaking work. Meanwhile, other bloggers fear that this is merely the beginning of the end for small BSPs.
According to Liu, after the Internet bubble first burst not too long ago, China investors became more cautious about new ventures.
"This is not good news for BSPs."
Website owners have had to resort to a range of tactics to keep users on their websites. This started a war of desktop search engines, chat tools, and now, the blog.
Despite the gloomy outlook, Minsi has not given up hope. Minsi is reportedly talking with an investor to try to keep the site alive. But with so many of its bloggers already jumping ship, it might be too little too late.
Faced with increasing challenges and a bleak future, BSPs are wrecking their brains for ways to generate income. Some have gone so far as selling advertising space as well as blog articles without bloggers' approval, a blatant infringement of copyright.
Some blog sites are even considering charging for services, a throwback to pre-free email services days.
Unfortunately, charging for email services was an outright failure for the most part, which is why blog sites might have to explore variations of the charging model. For example, Hexun has launched a backup service and is providing bloggers with bigger blog space as a way of collecting membership fees for expanded services.
In fact, some Minsi bloggers have expressed their willingness to start paying for services to keep the site afloat.
Internet users see the Minsi case as a sign of things to come: "This is a turning point in blog charges."
(China.org.cn by Li Xiaohua, July 28, 2006)