Facebook chases its billion user target in China
There are reports today that Facebook could be having a second run at tackling the China market after having talks with Chinese search giant Baidu.
The DigiCha blog reports carries news of reported meetings between Baidu and Facebook in California, as the search company looks to develop its social media offering.
Facebook did launch a Chinese language version in 2008 but it was censored and eventually closed. Now users trying to access the site from China receive an error message. But with around 420m internet users, the Chinese market is probably the easiest way for Facebook to reach the next significant milestone of a billion members.
A sticking point, however, could be getting approval for a joint venture from the government, given the credit that Facebook — along with Twitter — is receiving in helping to co-ordinate protests that eventually led to the downfall of the Egyptian government.
Other companies, like Yahoo!, have been criticised for censoring information in order to gain a foothold on the Chinese market — will Facebook’s pursuit of the one billion-member mark override any concerns about implicitly supporting a regime known for the brutal suppression of its opponents?
Separately, the Chinese social network renren.com is reported to be looking at an IPO in the US aimed at raising $500m.
Curiously, this report comes a week after Facebook denied it had any interest in China.
On the heels of Facebook’s announcement that it will be opening an office in Hong Kong (along with its high-profile sponsorship of Hong Kong social media week), the company has done its best to say that its ambitions in this area stop at the Hong Kong-China border.
“We have no plans right now to talk about entering mainland China,” said Blake Chandlee, Facebook’s vice-president and commercial director for emerging markets to the press last Friday.
– appropriate in a country famous for counterfeit goods.