Social networking service MySpace has launched a beta version of MySpace China n an effort to expand its reach to China’s rapidly growing population of Internet users. As most Internet users know by now, MySpace’s social networking features enable users to create friend networks, join groups, and engage is messaging, while posting photos, blogs, and even videos. All these features are hot in China’s burgeoning Internet market, which already boasts an estimated 8 million blogs and over 17 million active bloggers, according to the country’s Internet agency.
After the United States, China boasts the world’s second-largest Internet user base, with an estimated 137 million Chinese already online. However, U.S. companies like Google and Yahoo trying to establish presences in the Chinese market have often generated ill-will at home, with critics arguing the companies are in effect supporting a totalitarian regime and participating in the most comprehensive Internet censorship effort on the planet. Several Chinese journalists and political dissidents have been jailed for messages and materials they’ve posted on the Internet—and evidence used against them has sometimes been turned over by U.S.-based companies like Yahoo (which has just been sued by the wife of a jailed dissident).
MySpace, which is owned by media conglomerate News Corp., hopes to avoid some of the “heavy weather” associated with doing business in China by setting up MySpace China as a Chinese-owned company, with backing from MySpace Inc., IDG’s venture capital firm, and a Chinese investment group. Exact breakdown of the ownership of MySpace China hasn’t been disclosed, nor has the company which investor(s) own controlling shares of the company. The company is headed up by former Microsoft executive Luo Chuan. Windei Deng, the Chinese-born wife of News Corp head Rupert Murdoch has also been described as playing a central role in launching MySpace China.
MySpace China plans to collect recommendations and feedback from users in an effort to refine the service for the Chinese market. While MySpace may be the 800-pound gorilla of social networking in the North American market, in China it will be playing catch-up to established Chinese sites like WangYou.com, which boasts 11 million users.