Monthly Archives: June 2010

Rebecca MacKinnon on Internet censorship in China

Warning: this post has no browser-related content.

Rebecca MacKinnon’s blog post about Google’s recent moves with their homepage for their mainland Chinese users is informative but what’s more interesting to me is her testimony at the June 30th hearing on “China’s Information Control Practices and the Implications for the United States” for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The entire testimony is powerful but the last part, where she reminds everyone that Baidu is listed on the NASDAQ and uses money from investors in the US and elsewhere to censor the Internet in China, is worth reading.

Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission:
“China’s Information Control Practices and the Implications for the United States”

As I have described in my testimony, the Chinese government has transferred much of the cost of censorship to the private sector. The American investment community has so far been willing to fund Chinese innovation in censorship technologies and systems without complaint or objection. Under such circumstances, Chinese industry leaders have little incentive and less encouragement to resist government demands that often contradict even China’s own laws and constitution.

Two of Baidu’s five Directors are American. U.S. investors provided much of Baidu’s startup capital. U.S. institutional investors own significant stakes in the company. To be fair, American investment dollars support many businesses around the world that human rights groups and environmentalists have identified as unethical or destructive to our health and our planet. Yet in the wake of the financial crisis and the BP oil spill, it is also clear that millions of people around the world are paying an unacceptably high price for unethical – or at very least amoral – investment practices. We will not see the end of our problems unless industry and investors own up to their broader responsibilities to society and to the planet. I predict that the prospects for freedom and democracy around the world will similarly be diminished if our investments continue to support censorship and surveillance.

For the ethical investor, there are two possible responses to this problem. One is divestment from all ethically challenging situations. The other is engagement and advocacy, using financial leverage to work for positive change in industry practices and even government regulation. Such efforts often require patience and take time to bear fruit, but experience in other sectors such as mining and manufacturing show that proactive, socially responsible investment combined with advocacy and engagement can make a difference over time.

I believe the Chinese people would be worse off if all American companies and investors were to abandon the Chinese Internet. Investors who remain silent, however, should be clear about what kind of innovation they are financing. In addition to whatever product or service they set out to invest in, they are also supporting a disturbing new political innovation: networked authoritarianism.

If you own Baidu stock or have a mutual fund that owns Baidu stock you are financing China’s state-controlled censorship of the Chinese Internet.

Mozilla in Indonesia 2010

Introduction

I spent a week in Jakarta in late May, starting to learn about the Indonesian web/Internet market. I had planned to go to Indonesia in 2009 but my schedule prevented it and in hindsight, I wish that I had gone sooner.

It’s clear that as of this year, 2010, the Indonesian Internet/web market is exploding, most obviously with Yahoo!’s acquisition of the Indonesian startup Koprol.com, but also further movements that have been less visible such as non-Indonesian venture capital firms moving into the country and starting to make their first investments.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy, who was in Indonesia around the same time I was filed these stories which provide additional perspectives into the Internet market in Indonesia: What the Hell Is Going on in Indonesia? and Is “Remarkable Indonesia” the New “Incredible India” for Investors?

Mozilla and Firefox are in uncharted territory in Indonesia because we enjoy being the dominant browser. Firefox’s share on many of the top Indonesian websites is between 65-75%. It’s not clear exactly why Firefox is so popular (I go into more detail below), but I believe Mozilla needs to be more active in Indonesia moving forward in order to keep the market share that we have today, and to understand why Firefox is as popular as it is for both the Indonesian market as well as other emerging markets (other parts of S. E. Asia and S. America at the very least.)

With respect to the size of the Internet and Internet users in Indonesia, I was given wildly varying figures between 25 and 40 Mil. users. I think that no one really knows for sure but whatever the exact figure is, it is clear that not even 20% of the population of Indonesia is online and with 26% growth of the Internet in the past year (Yahoo!/TNS) it is clear that there will be significant growth of Internet users in Indonesia for many years to come.

Background on the Indonesian Internet

Of the first wave of Indonesian Internet sites, which enjoy dominance in Indonesia today, the ones to note are

* Kaskus.us (the leading forum and web community)
* Detik.com (a leading online-only news service)
* Kompas.com (a portal affiliated with a major media publisher and one of the leading newspapers)
* Vivanews.com (another leading publisher and online news service)
* Plasa.com (originally a web community, retooled to be a commerce site, owned by a large Indonesian media firm)

These were either bootstrapped sites early on which got popular or sites developed with the backing of a major Indonesian media or telecom entity.

In addition to these Indonesian sites:

* Google is the most popular search service
* Yahoo! is most popular for IM and Webmail, and Yahoo! News is #2 or #3 and gaining share
* Facebook has almost ubiquitous reach in Indonesia from young to old, male and female.

In fact many Indonesians only sign up for a webmail account in order to reigster at Facebook- i.e. for many Indonesians, Facebook _is_ the Internet of Indonesia.

Status of Mozilla in Indonesia

As far as I can tell, after speaking with a number of the top websites and web services in Indonesia, Firefox enjoys something between 65-75% market share on the desktop. Based on Mozilla’s own data, Indonesia is consistently in the top 10 of top locations for Firefox worldwide. 80% of Indonesian Firefox users use the en-US Firefox; only 16% use the Bahasa Indonesia version of Firefox.  Many Indonesian users told me that “software in Indonesian is hard to understand” and while I don’t doubt that, this is most true for the most English-fluent users.  While English is taught widely, everyday conversation is in Bahasa Indonesia, and the media (newspapers, TV, radio, most websites) are also in Bahasa Indonesia.  Therefore there is a growing need for a Bahasa Indonesia Firefox, especially as the Internet expands beyond the wealthy and educated to more average Indonesian users.

We have known for some time that Mozilla’s highest market share in the world is Indonesia, but we have only had guesses as to why that is the case. While I tried to pinpoint the reasons as to why Indonesia has the world’s highest market share for Firefox, none of the reasons that came up in discussions are unique to Indonesia.

Some Indonesians I spoke to told me, ‘Indonesians don’t like to pay for software’ and like many other SE Asian nations, a significant majority of computer users in Indonesia are using pirated Windows. Those users can’t easily upgrade to IE 7 or IE 8, and choose to install and use Firefox instead. However software piracy is a major issue across Asia and is not unique to Indonesia.

Others have said that it is the features and/or security, and/or speed of Firefox in comparison to IE that makes it the browser of choice for Indonesians.

Still others tell me that Internet cafe owners like to install Firefox with AdBlock in order to better manage their bandwidth. However, AdBlock is popular across the world and while many Internet users in Indonesia connect via Internet cafes, and will continue to do so as the Internet expands across the nation, those users alone can’t skew our data that far.

The closest I came to understanding why Firefox is so popular in Indonesia is trying to understand how certain technology products have become popular and why. For instance currently in Jakarta, the Blackberry is far and away the most popular smart phone in the market. But the BlackBerry’s popularity is very recent- just a few years ago it was Nokia’s phones.  However due to the popularity of the qwerty keyboard and the cheapest plans such that more than 4 carriers are competing to provide the cheapest rates for BlackBerry service, and no need to pay for SMS because BBMail between BlackBerry users is free, RIM has taken significant share of the high end of the smart phone market in Indonesia. I think the reason Blackberry is popular in Indonesia right, and indeed how certain technology products are virally promoted within Indonesia, holds the reason as to why Firefox is so popular in Indonesia.

Government stance on OSS

I was able to get a meeting with the Deputy Director of Software for the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. We discussed the Indonesian government’s stance on open source software and the deputy director informed me that the ICT Ministry is actively promoting both OSS (including both Firefox and Thunderbird) within the government but also is actively promoting programs around open content as well.  The day I visited the ICT Ministry, there was a press event around a contest that the government was co-funding around the creation of content for the Bahasa Indonesia Wikipedia.

Indonesian Internetworks

Via an introduction, I was able to meet Johar Rangkuti, chairman of IDC Indonesia, a leading data center operator.  IDC Indonesia houses the (Indonesian) National Inter Connection Exchange (NiCE) popularly known as the OpenIXP.  This is the only carrier neutral data center in Indonesia and as such all of the 200+ ISPs in Indonesia peer at IDC.  What this also means is that this one physical location is also a single point of failure for the Internet within Indonesia.  If the big Cisco switch that all of the Indonesian ISPs peer at IDC Indonesia goes down, the entire Internet in Indonesia goes down.  It works for them but it is certainly a sight to behold. Johar was kind enough to agree to host a new mirror for Mozilla at IDC, which is now available at http://mozilla.the.net.id/ As the founder of the OpenIXP and the host that houses this key piece of Internet infrastructure in Indonesia, Johar is in fact a very influential person with respect to the Internet in Indonesia.  Luckily for us he is a big Mozilla fan.

Community

Romi Hardiyanto, who has been our Bahasa Indonesian localizer since before 1.0 should be credited for the bulk of the work that has been done to develop a Mozilla community in Indonesia. We have an active mailing list and the community gets together usually once or twice a year, normally for release parties.

As Romi does not live in Jakarta (he was based in Germany studying for his advanced degree for many years) Viking Karwur, a freelance web designer based in Jakarta has been the defacto community leader. Viking has organized the release parties for Firefox for a number of years and was kind enough to help organize the community event for when I visited in May.

While we do have a small and active community in place, considering the market share that Firefox enjoys in Indonesia, and the growth of the Internet overall, my sense is that that the community could be much larger and more active.

A free press

One of the key differentiating factors for Indonesia currently that is not obvious at first is that today Indonesians enjoy free speech online. This is important because in Asia, free speech is not as common as we might hope. China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia among others all censor the media or the Internet to one degree or another. Indonesian lawmakers have recently stated a desire to start filtering certain content from the Indonesian Internet, but for the time being Indonesia enjoys free speech, which has meant a huge boom in the popularity of weblogs and more importantly Facebook which has become an absolute must-have service in Indonesia from teenager to grand parent.

Some reports show that Indonesian is the #3 country in Facebook (after the US and the UK) and is clearly the most popular Asian language (mainly because other Asian markets either restrict access to Facebook (China, Vietnam in places) or are markets where there are domestic equivalents such that Facebook is not popular (Japan, Korea).

Competition

If we consider the fact that a majority of browser users in Indonesia use Firefox, there is logic to say that there is no need to focus on Indonesia- that Firefox has ‘won.’ I would disagree and would say that I think that our current situation in Indonesia is something serendipitous and that we could have our leading position taken away from us.

In discussions with Indonesians in the Internet and online advertising industries, it is clear that Google is exploring the market seriously in order to launch a number of key properties in country, including Maps and Chrome. Indonesian ad agencies have been asked to pitch online and offline ad campaigns for Google Maps and Chrome browser to Google and while none have been chosen as far as anyone knows, it’s only a matter of time before Google opens and office and begins to promote Chrome and Maps and other Google properties directly in country.  With the cost of offline and online advertising as low as it is, Google could certainly afford to blitz the Indonesian media with ads to promote their properties and software. The challenge then for Firefox is whether we will be able to hold onto the users that we have.

Conclusion

Due to hard work by Romi as well as Viking and the existing “id-Moz” community in Indonesia, Firefox enjoys a 60-70% market share in Indonesia.  Indonesia is also the top location in Asia for Mozilla, with a larger community of users than Japan or China.  As Mozilla has not traditionally been active in Indonesia, now that we have a better understanding of the market and the some of the key players, hopefully we can be more active in Indonesia in the future.  We still need to learn what it is about the Indonesian market which makes it Firefox so compelling for Internet users in hopes that we can keep Firefox popular in Indonesia and take those lessons elsewhere.

Thanks

I’d like to thank Romi for all of his hard work localizing Firefox for all these years. We’ll miss you at Summit this year. I’d also like to thank Viking for all of the arrangement of the meetups both this year and in the past years. I’d also like to thank Andi ‘Belutz‘ Darmawan, who has been a kind friend and guide to the OSS communities of Indonesia. I also need to thank Enda Nasution, A-list blogger extraordinaire, for his guidance and consultation. I also must thank my good friends and Asia Society Fellows Hendra Sutandinata and Lia Sunarjo who were my guides to Jakarta.

Photos

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(Above) The server racks of IDC Indonesia’s new data center are hand-painted to match the four seasons. 15 years in technology and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

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(Above) Skyline of Jakarta with many minarets visible

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(Above) The ubiquitous traffic of Jakarta. Outdoor ad for the iPhone which almost no one in Indonesia uses.

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(Above) The TransJakarta (local city) bus. Can anyone tell me why the entrance and exit to the bus is like 4 feet off the ground and requires an elevated platform?

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(Above) Central Jakarta with mid-day traffic

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(Above) Mozilla Jakarta meetup, May 2010

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(Above) Mozilla Jakarta meetup, May 2010

Learn Javascript In Manga

This was so awesome I had to share this on Planet: Asiajin – Learn Javascript In Manga

NOTE: this content is only available in Japanese.  (English JavaScript users have a LOT more resources to learn JavaScript than Japanese users…)

マンガで分かる JavaScriptプログラミング講座 (The manga guide to JavaScript Programming Course) is an online web manga (Japanese style comic) for novice programmers to study JavaScript programming language by themselves. In a story, three high-school students learn JavaScript from a teacher in a year. 4 Chapters, 23 sections, 153 pages this manga covers the basics of JavaScript, objects, array, regular expression, DOM, event handler, style sheet, cookies, jQuery, bookmarklet, WSH, HTA, etc.

South East Asian Internet and Media trends

Net Index 2010, a survey by TNS (Kantar Media), Nielsen, Synovate and Yahoo! has released some interesting information regarding the S. E. Asian Internet and media consumption trends in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Yahoo! S.E Asia releases study on Internet trends and media consumptions

Some key findings:

* Indonesia, the largest and fastest growing online market in Southeast Asia, has recorded a jump from 22% (2009) to 48% (2010)
* Internet cafés in Indonesia are gradually losing ground to Mobile as dominant Internet access point. A decline of 19% has been recorded in Internet access through cafes; 83% in 2009 to 64% in 2010
* In Vietnam, mobile Internet access is picking up fast, nearly doubling year-to-year, from 10% (2008) to 19% (2009). Popular activities are searching for information and listening to music
* User generated content and community building is driving this trend in some markets like Vietnam, where it occupies the largest share (47%) among social media activities.
* Search, in the Philippines has grown significantly from 58% to 76% to become the dominant online activity, surpassing email and instant messaging
* Social media in the Philippines is primarily used to stay in touch with friends and family (66%), send emails (64%) and for online chats (63%)
* Spread of digital media is changing the way Malaysians are consuming information, particularly news. Key news sources are; online newspapers (53%), Internet portals (47%) and local news sites (46%)
* In Malaysia, online music and video has attracted significant interest with 51% uploading/downloading music files online and 54 % watching video clips online. Over a third of users also play games online – dominated by younger males.

Additional information on mobile users in Indonesia is also summarized at the Yahoo! blog post.

Chinese networked authoritarianism

While not necessarily Mozilla-related, Rebecca MacKinnon’s most recent blog post on the White Paper issued by the Chinese government on the Internet is a must-read for those who care about the Internet in China or censorship of the Internet.

China’s Internet White Paper: networked authoritarianism in action

Thus China is pioneering what I call “networked authoritarianism.” Compared to classic authoritarianism, networked authoritarianism permits – or shall we say accepts the Internet’s inevitable consequences and adjusts – a lot more give-and-take between government and citizens than in a pre-Internet authoritarian state. While one party remains in control, a wide range of conversations about the country’s problems rage on websites and social networking services. The government follows online chatter, and sometimes people are even able to use the Internet to call attention to social problems or injustices, and even manage to have an impact on government policies. As a result, the average person with Internet or mobile access has a much greater sense of freedom – and may even feel like they have the ability to speak and be heard – in ways that weren’t possible under classic authoritarianism. It also makes most people a lot less likely to join a movement calling for radical political change. In many ways, the regime actually uses the Internet not only to extend its control but also to enhance its legitimacy.

The White Paper is a clear articulation of the Chinese government’s long-standing position that nation-states should have “sovereignty” over all aspects of the Internet – human or equipment or signal – that reside within or pass through Chinese sovereign territory.

The White Paper’s message is that the Chinese government is not running scared from the Internet. It is embracing the Internet head-on, intends to be a leader in its global evolution, and intends to assert its influence on how the global Internet is governed and regulated.

In addition to Rebecca’s post, if you are interested in these issues be sure to read Evan Osnos’ (New Yorker) interview of Tim Wu (Columbia Univ.) on this same topic:

Can China Maintain “Sovereignty” Over the Internet?

Mozilla at Echelon 2010, Singapore

My colleague, Shyam Mani, and I will be at Echelon 2010 this week, which looks to be one of the most exciting Internet events in Asia this year. Over 750 participants from all across Asia, it’s quite an accomplishment and congratulations to the e27 organizers.

I’m speaking about Addons on Tuesday morning, and will be around for the rest of the event gathering feedback from participants and sharing the news about what’s going on at Mozilla with mobile, Firefox 4, etc.

In unrelated news, I’m looking forward to some authentic chicken rice!