Web Strategy Field Report: The Hong Kong and China Web Sphere (Part 1 of 4)

(Left: Hong Kong Harbor at night)

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Summary
I ventured to Hong Kong and met with many of the web industry leaders, below is part 1 of 4 of my Web Strategy Field Report to understand the web sphere in Hong Kong and China. If you’re a web strategist with global responsibilities you’ll need to understand what’s happening in one of the world’s largest internet user base.

Opportunity
To date, there are more Chinese internet users than all of North America combined, and only a portion of China is full online, the potential has not yet been tapped. Simply re-skinning your website in Chinese and adding a ‘.cn’ domain may not be a sufficient strategy.

Purpose
I want to understand the global web better, and am doing what I can to learn more. It’s easy to become very insular in the Silicon Valley bubble, so if you’ve any suggestions, please leave a comment

Methodology

30-60 minute formal or casual interviews. I’ve met several successful Entrepreneurs, Investors, Analysts, Professors, CEOs, Strategists, Bloggers, Podcasters, and Marketers during this period.

Limitations

Please note this field report is incomplete. I’ve neither the time nor resources to do thorough analysis, and do a 360 degrees research. The information and anecdotes collected are from interviews with those that I met. As always, a web strategy and plan should have thorough research completed before starting. If you disagree or have other data points to add (even if it’s just your own opinion, I welcome them in the comments, please don’t be shy).


“The screen is getting bigger for a reason, some kids are playing 4 MMORPGS at once”

declared Yet Siu, the CEO of Outblaze over lunch at a fine seafood restaurant on Lamma island. He’s noticed that some youths in China and HK are playing up to 4 MMORPGs or web games at the same time…each in it’s own window.


“Mini –Homepy (pronounced mini-home-pie) aggregates one’s network”

Is a new feature coming out of South Korea that aggregates one’s network and is like a filter for an individual. If you want to communicate with an individual, you will go to his mini-homepy and leave a message. It’s a combination of a blog, homepage, aggregator, and message board an individual. I did some searches for this product but didn’t find much.


“America has never seen an Alibaba”

On more than one occasion has a few strategists told me about the success of Alibaba. What is this website? It’s an online marketplace for small to medium sized businesses, a site that has no North American relation or comparison. It sports a storefront (free) for any company, and those that wish to upgrade can add video and other features for a fee. Some companies pay up to $5,000 a year. In fact, the company is due to go public soon, and investors are expecting the stock to split within the first 24 hours of IPO. (so I’m told). Ther are 24 million registered users (compared to how many US users) with


“The internet industry is grouped in the Software industry”

Unlike the United States the internet is listed and categorized as a subset of the Software Industry. In the US, internet is often clearly separated from desktop or enterprise software, and we strive to maintain that separation. Over time, this may change in China as well. For many web professionals, they clearly see the web as an evolution to re-purpose desktop applications in the browser, and then the mobile web.


“There are 1.4 million new broadband users in China every month”

During a presentation from China Mobile various stats were given. Although this growth seems massive only 10% of China is on broadband, I believe the stat in United States is around 70-80% (from memory)

Stick around next week, I’ll be releasing part 2. If this was helpful or even if you have some contradictory information, please leave a comment.

Update: I had a great conversation with Carleen Hawn of GigaOm’s Found|READ, she’s summarized much of what I’m reporting back to you all.

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  • http://www.chinaherald.net Fons Tuinstra

    The percentage of internet users is now slightly over 12 percent, a bit more than ten percent in this huge country.
    Alibaba has been a big success in China because logistics has traditional been very poor. Apart from Jack Ma at Alibaba doing a great job, the US perhaps did not need an Alibaba.

  • http://oneeyedpanda.wordpress.com John Guise

    Hi Jeremiah

    I’m not sure to say that it’s accurate that the US has no Ali Baba. I used to work for a company in China called Global Sources. It’s a B2B marketplace headquartered in Hong Kong and has been around for 36 years (it’s also listed on Nasdaq as GSOL). Now not all 36 years have been online, but I believe it still went online before Ali Baba. Ali Baba did however beat it in the B2C market however with Taobao. Global Sources created Global Sources Direct in a joint venture with eBay about two years ago, but as far as I know from talking to my colleagues who are still with the company, it’s not doing too well.

  • http://kanai.net/weblog/ Gen Kanai

    Cyworld’s hompy’s have been popular for quite some time, albeit only in Korea. It seems to be something unique to the Korean Internet and although Cyworld has tried to launch similar services outside of Korea, they have failed to get any traction.

    Joi wrote about hompys a few years ago.

    http://joi.ito.com/archives/2005/06/02/korean_bloggers.html

  • http://www.yobosensei.com/blog yobosensei

    This is an example of a mini-homepy from Cyworld. http://www.cyworld.com/hongchul. Cyworld is the largest social network service in Korea by SK communications Company. Almost every young Korean or celebrity must have a mini-homepy site. You can change the skin, update your mini-blog(like twitter), send a drink to your friend or publish your photos(like facebook). The interface looks like a diary so it’s very easy to maneuver. There is a new Cyworld2. I think they are targeting at 25-45yo audience.

    Good site. Keep it the good work.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Fons, good background info. It’s interesting how infrastructure (Broadband to mobile) can impact a web strategy.

    John, eBay and Yahoo Business were discussed as comparisons but they’re still a bit different.

    Gen, great to see you here, thanks! I checked out the homepy review from Joi, very interesting.

    Yobosensei, I wonder if we could call a homepy a digital lifestyle aggregator…it sounds similiar

  • http://startuplay.com StartuPlay

    As a fellow China Blogger, I like to see posts here on asia.

    As far as alibaba, I’ve actualy had a chance to speak with John Wu, CTO of alibaba, on two occasions (in the Valley and in Beijing). I’ve written a few posts on that too: here and here.

    In short, there were actually a number of companies (dating back to late 90′s) that were in the same business–here in US. However, the businesses just couldn’t scale due to corporate structure in America. Few companies controlling mass most productions. Whereas in China there are millions of small companies, each controlling small-to-medium exports.

    But here is the problem: those Chinese small businesses are local mom-pop businesses with no international staff or sense? So how do they deal with all the english paperwork, internet, etc? They use their children–who are all educated abroad–over the summer when they come back to visit… All of this was inefficient, so when Alibaba established a solid customer support team, they solved a huge problem.

    In other words, Alibaba’s main core is: Customer Support (which I heard takes 9 floors of their Beijing building). They do anything from translating documents to taking pictures on-site at the factories.

  • http://startuplay.com StartuPlay

    By the way, I suggest everyone to read more about alibaba, Jack Ma (and John Wu) – the story is a classical example of how current companies get started in China.

    John Wu was previously with Yahoo (quite high too, had access to Jerry Yang), but then randomly was introduced to Jack while visiting Beijing with Jerry…

  • http://feeds.feedburner.com/personalbrandingblog Dan Schawbel

    Good insights and research here. I think it would be interesting to compare countries with this research and see how different people react.

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  • Tim

    “To date, there are more Chinese internet users than all of North America combined” – I’m not sure where this stat comes from. It’s incorrect according to CNNIC. In September, Xinhua reported 170-something million internet users in China and CNNIC’s last report (from July I think) had a lower estimate than that. USA should have over 210 million according to CNNIC. That’s not even to mention adding Canada and Mexico…

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Tim

    here’s some other details

    http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

    I dont know the exact stats either.

  • http://www.yobosensei.com/blog yobosensei

    This is an example of a mini-homepy from Cyworld. http://www.cyworld.com/hongchul. Cyworld is the largest social network service in Korea by SK communications Company. Almost every young Korean or celebrity must have a mini-homepy site. You can change the skin, update your mini-blog(like twitter), send a drink to your friend or publish your photos(like facebook). The interface looks like a diary so it's very easy to maneuver. There is a new Cyworld2. I think they are targeting at 25-45yo audience.

    Good site. Keep it the good work.

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