Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 11, June 4 - 10

Ayi Picks Internet Losers (and Winners)  


Since this is the Scene’s High-Tech special issue, can you give your loyal readers the lowdown on the good, the bad and the ugly scrambling for market share in China’s nascent Internet industry?


URL-ed out

Dear Earl,

Internet shminternet, it’s the same bunch of Imperialists seeking to carve China up like a ripe watermelon. Your ayi hates hype as much as she loves hanging out in Internet chat rooms so she is eminently qualified to sort the facts from the chaff.

The internet business in China is still in its infancy, but the mortality rate has been high. Here’s a brief no nonsense tour of the nearly departed and how to avoid their pitfalls.

China Internet Corporation (CIC)
Armed with the domain names, and, CIC has attempted to position itself as not only the premier portal for China but the matchmaker for major American Internet companies and the Chinese market. While CIC has succeeded in bringing America Online to Hong Kong,’s traffic is almost non-existent and the site was blocked within China until earlier this month. has been leased to a Taiwanese company, and the URL caused an uproar on the island province when it was listed as a China site by a Taiwan search engine.
While Sohu (Search Fox) and its CEO Charles Zhang continue to garner international press attention and commensurate investment interest, so much fur is flying out of the boardroom it could support a small carpet enterprise. Sohu is far ahead of the curve: they’ve got the brand name, but their Mainland-only focus makes them an investment vacuum for the next five years minimum. An exodus of top staff continues and other start-ups with money and a better management structure are swooping in to poach what’s left of the best talent. Shareholders Dow Jones, Intel, and Nicholas Negroponte are reportedly unhappy with the management of majority shareholder Zhang and his increasingly autocratic ways.

Sparkice was slated to open 100 cafes throughout China by the year 2000. They are only 94 short of their goal right now. Their Internet Service Provider (ISP) became quickly popular and then quickly unpopular after subscribers tired of frequent cut-offs and realized that because the default password was given to everyone and was difficult to change, just about anyone could access any Sparkice email account. Has failed to attract significant investment and the company operates like a state-owned enterprise.

This is a joint-venture between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the Party mouthpiece People’s Daily. The People’s Daily’s own site is far better. News Corp. mistakenly thought they would do for the Chinese-language Internet what they have done for satellite television in Asia with Star TV.

Also known as Yinhaiwei, this company was going to save Chinese users from the horrors of the worldwide Internet and its nasty anti-Chinese content by creating a Chinese Intranet. They’re now seeking foreign capital to revive a company that is all but bankrupt.
With separate sites for North America, Taiwan, and China, understands that all Chinese do not necessarily want to read the same content. Their North American site features an online mall for Chinese goods and sells tickets to performances by Cantopoppers in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. During the recent flap over that thing in Yugoslavia,’s forums were perhaps the most active, and for a company whose site was blocked two years ago, its prominence in a CCTV report about the Internet reaction to those events confirms that is the company to watch. Zhaopin created a job search site to complement its physical world recruitment service. The site now receives page views in the hundreds of thousands per month and shows that money can be made from a Web site, in China, right here, right now.


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