Will Facebook See The Light Of Day In The Shadow OF China's Firewall?

This month tweets and rumors have been mounting leading to the probability that Mark Zuckerberg might have struck a deal with the Chinese. (Looks his trip to China last December was more for business, than pleasure).  If so, conjecture has it that a Facebook-lite iteration might open in the nation known for some of the strictest Internet censorship regulations known on the planet.

According to a Digital East Asia report, "a very credible source posted on Sina Weibo (aka - the Twitter of China) that Facebook has reached an agreement to partner with a leading Internet company and bring its service to the Chinese Mainland." Hu Yan Ping, the founder and general manager of the Beijing-based market research firm Data Center of the China Internet (DCCI) posted the following:

A number of other sources actually believe that Baidu will be Facebook's domestic partner in China. Kai Lukoff, Kai LukoffKai Lukoffco-founder of the Chinese tech blog, TechRice, indicated that Zuckerberg may have already signed off on this deal to create a new social network in China. However Mashable's Charlie White notes that ex-Pats or Facebook's US users won't be able to friend someone in China from the existing network. Most likely, the China network "wouldn't be linked with the rest of the site," he adds.

In my previous post, "Leaping The Great Firewall In China Greater Hurdle To Arab Awakening," I reported on how China was tightening its Internet controls moreso than ever before, due to the Middle East uprisings. China wants to quash even the slightest whisper of political unrest before it has the possibility of becoming a reality.

White doesn't hold great expectations for a watered-down Facebook in China, however. "Could this end up being like that pale imitation of Twitter we saw sprouting up in China late last year?" he asks.

Others are more optimistic. Doug Herman from Digital East Asia feels that Facebook entering China would lend credibility to social media in general and could spur on IPOs for the existing domestic social networks. "Despite the poor track record of US companies competing in China it will be hard for investors to dismiss the sudden 800-pound risk factor in the room," he says.

Entering China would open Facebook to the world's largest Internet market with more than 457 million Web users. Brian Womack at Bloomberg.com quoted an email sent to them from Facebook: "We are currently studying and learning about China, as part of evaluating any possible approaches that could benefit our users, developers and advertisers."

In the graphic novel satire, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," a section of the plot line focuses on Z-Man (aka Mark Zuckerberg) and his social network Facebucks (aka Facebook) in direct competition with the Chinese. It is Z-Man's intent to be the supreme ruler of the Internet, and the only thing standing in his way is China's investments in semantic technology and Web 3.0, the next iteration of the Web.

Perhaps Zuckerberg's current move is a methodical next step in that direction?  What do they say about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer?

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