Web Strategy Field Report: The Hong Kong and China Web Sphere (Part 2 of 4)

(Left: Shanghai on a dreary morning)

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Summary
I ventured to Hong Kong and met with many of the web industry leaders, below is part 2 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).

“Chinese enjoy the web for entertainment purposes, therefore the bright and colorful design patterns are suitable for usage”

A generalization described by developer to me. I too have noticed increased use of animation, bright and colorful fonts, and cute anime like graphics on popular websites. If you compare the top Asian blogs in Technorati 100 to the top Western blogs, you’ll may also see a difference in use of animation color choices, and interaction. Obviously, this needs more research to be conclusive.

“Second Life is soooo 2002”

Said one internet professional to me, as there are so many other virtual worlds that have appeared in Asia, see this limited list by Techcrunch or VW review. Silicon Valley still seems intoxicated with SF local Linden labs without realizing there are over 20 virtual networks that are being heavily used by other cultures. Yet another reason Silicon Valley needs to look out the window more often than look in the mirror.

“In Asia, Cyber Cafes make the web social”

This is a concept unfamiliar with most Americans, the high income of the United States family provides at least 1-4 computers in a home, thereby reducing the need to go to a public facility. In many parts of the world, the Cyber Café is not unlike a real café, where people go to meet, game, play, and communicate. There’s more tactile collaboration and community than Americans may ever know. I had a healthy conversation discussion how web analytics may not be accurate in cultures with cybercafes.

“The internet is an entertainment medium, less than a collaboration medium for China”

Over the discussion with this CEO, he compared the differences between the encouragement of collaboration and sharing within the west online vs the consumption type behavior found in China. If one were to do Technographics research it would be interesting to see the differences in sharing and adoption.

“Since you can’t buy [gaming] consoles in China, the biggest online revenues are online gaming”

One investor told me that online gaming (like Swordsman or World of Warcraft) were very successful, as they meet the ‘entertainment’ value proposition. “Online gaming in China represents one of the largest and fasted growing Internet business sectors in the country. With 137 million Internet users currently active in the PRC, the country now has the second largest online user base in world, second only to the United States of America.” suggests Wikipedia.

TaoBao, is a consumer version of Alibaba, it rivals eBay of the west”

With the success of Alibaba a consumer version was created, just a few weeks ago, McDonalds and TaoBao entered partnership. BusinessWeek provides some additional insight to the key to branding in China.

Love to hear your commentary, even if you don’t agree. Stay tuned for part 3 next week.

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