5 February 2007

Internet boom in China is built on virtual fun [International Herald Tribune]

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Pony Ma, whose real name is Ma Huateng, at Tencent's headquarters in Shenzhen
Instant messaging, game-playing and social networking online are major obsessions, now central to Chinese culture, reports The International Herald Tribune.

“While America’s Internet users send e-mail messages and surf for information on their personal computers, young people in China are playing online games, downloading video and music into their cellphones and MP3 players and entering imaginary worlds where they can swap virtual goods and assume online personas.

Another distinguishing feature is the youthful face of China’s online community. In the United States, roughly 70 percent of Internet users are over the age of 30; in China, it is the other way around — 70 percent of users here are under 30, according to the investment bank Morgan Stanley.

Because few people in China have credit cards or trust the Internet for financial transactions, e-commerce is emerging slowly. But instant messaging and game-playing are major obsessions, now central to Chinese culture. So is social networking, a natural fit in a country full of young people without siblings.

[This] is one reason America’s biggest Internet companies, like Yahoo, Google and eBay, have largely flopped in China. Analysts say the American companies struggle here partly because of regulatory restrictions that favor homegrown companies, but also because foreign companies often do not understand China’s Internet market, which is geared primarily to entertainment and mobile phones.”

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