Web

TED Talk: A look behind the Great Firewall of China [video]

Understanding the Great Firewall of China

Chances are, you’ve heard of the “Great Firewall of China,” that notorious digital barrier that keeps much of the Internet that we enjoy here in the United States out of reach for Chinese citizens. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google — all these sites and services that we in the West take for granted are inaccessible to people in China.

Because of this intense censorship by the national goverment in China, the country repeatedly lands on lists of countries that pose the greatest threat to the open Web, ranking up there with counties ruled by totalitarian regimes like Syria and Iran. But as Chinese journalist Michael Anti explains in a recent TED Talk (video below), just becasue China blocks the major players on the global Internet does not mean that the “Chinanet” is a barren “wasteland.” In fact, quite the opposite is true.

“In China, we have 500 million Internet users,” explains Anti. “That’s the biggest population of Netizens, Internet users, in the whole world. So even if the Chinese’s [Internet] is a totally censored Internet… Chinese Internet society is really booming.”

For example, China may not have Google (anymore), but it does have Baidu. There is no Facebook — but there is Renren. YouTube is blocked in China, but Youku and Tudou are allowed to exist. This practice of creating clones of popular social networks is part of the Chinese government’s strategy for keeping their people complacent. Sure, the Chinese might not have access to the same sites we can use, but they have a comparable alternatives — alternatives that are approved, monitored and censored by the Chinese government in Bejing.

Take Sina Weibo, for example. Weibo is the Chinese version of Twitter. It launched in August of 2009, not long after Twitter.com was blocked by the Great Firewall. Weibo has around 300 million users — that’s more than twice the total number of active U.S. Twitter users, and roughly the equal to the entire population of the U.S.

While the Internet in China is populated and active, it is also heavily censored, says Anti. The names of government leaders are all blocked. And anytime someone talks about a “get together” or even going for a walk, the tweets are censored. Those who do managed to meet up offline are often met by police. Still, says Anti, the sheer number of Web users on China’s Internet make it a revolutionary sphere — the first national public sphere China has ever had.

Anti, whose real name is Zhao Jing, famously had his Facebook account and his thousands of followers deleted because he used a pseudonym, which violates Facebook’s real-name rules.

For anyone interested in the open Web and the forces that stand in its way, Anti’s TED Talk is a must-watch. Check it out below.

Image via karen roach/Shutterstock

Mobile

The 100 best Android apps turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

Choosing which apps to download is tricky, especially given how enormous and cluttered the Google Play Store has become. We rounded up 100 of the best Android apps and divided them neatly, with each suited for a different occasion.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Computing

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Mobile

Google honors Veterans Day by highlighting military service stories

For Veterans Day, Google is honoring the heroes that served the country with a new Google Doodle that highlights the stories of five veterans from the five different branches of the military.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with 12 of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Mobile

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.
Computing

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.
Computing

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
News

Zoom in on famous works through the Art Institute of Chicago’s new website

Art lovers, listen up. The Art Institute of Chicago has given its website a serious makeover with new features that let you get up close and personal with more than 50,000 artworks by famous (and not so famous) artists.
Computing

Over a million veterans now eligible for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program

Comcast's low-cost Internet Essentials program, which provides internet access for just $10 per month, has expanded to include U.S. veterans. One million veterans now qualify for the service.