It seems that Facebook may finally be about to enter the world’s largest market – China. Having previously had access to its site blocked by authorities last year, rumours of a deal brokered with a Chinese Internet giant may hopefully pave the way for Facebook to enter China in a way that appeases its restrictive government.
Towards the end of last year Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg travelled to China to spend some time studying the market, and “figuring out what I think the right thing to do is.” Continuing his explanation to the Wall Street Journal, he said “It’s such an important part of the world. How can you connect the world if you leave out 1.6 billion people?”.
He makes a very good point, and it’s quite ironic that the people who largely produce the hardware with which we access Facebook are not permitted themselves to indulge in its way of life.
But what does this all mean? It’s not as if Facebook will suddenly spread through China like wildfire – there are in fact other social networking sites available there that Zuckerberg’s juggernaut will have to compete with. China’s most prolific social network, QZone, now has over 480 million users. That’s well over half of the global Facebook population.
So say that Facebook does eventually go mainstream in China, once the government allows the population to access the site. What happens if the ever-changing nature and functionality of the social networking behemoth contravenes the preferences of the ruling bodies? Will they suddenly just pull the plug on Facebook in China? The only certainty in all this is that there are some very interesting developments around the bend.