Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mark Zuckerberg Meets Chinese Businessmen, but Would Facebook Ever Take off in China?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mark Zuckerberg Meets Chinese Businessmen, but Would Facebook Ever Take off in China?

Article excerpt

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has spent the first few days of his winter break in China meeting the leaders of China's top technology companies.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and Time magazine's Man of the Year 2010, does not spend his holidays in China like most visitors.

The terracotta warriors, it seems, can wait. Mr. Zuckerberg has spent the first few days of his winter break here meeting the leaders of China's top technology companies, his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, in tow.

Zuckerberg's schedule has sparked widespread speculation that he has come to China, home to the world's largest internet population, with business in mind. Facebook is blocked by government censors in China, and Zuckerberg's stated goal of "making the world more open and connected" will be hard to realize if one quarter of the world's population cannot get onto his site.

But it is not clear that Facebook would succeed in China as it has succeeded almost everywhere else in the world even if the company were allowed to operate here, some analysts say.

With nearly 100 Chinese social networking sites already operating, dominated by a handful of market leaders, "the market is very mature with a lot of good products that work well for Chinese consumers" says Bill Bishop, an internet investor in Beijing.

Google, eBay, Yahoo, and other US internet companies have all had difficulty adapting to China, and none have achieved market leadership. "That has more to do with cultural issues than government regulation" says Mr. Bishop.

If Facebook had been allowed to compete from the start, rather than suffer intermittent and then permanent inaccessibility, "it would have succeeded for the same reasons it has succeeded elsewhere" argues Kai Lukoff, an internet entrepreneur in Shanghai.

RenRen dominates a mature social media market

The largest social networking site in China, RenRen, is a clone of Facebook he points out, and RenRen's 100 million members are testament to the power of the original. …

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