Category Archives: China

Shanghai Community meeting December 8

Please join me at the upcoming Mozilla community meeting in Shanghai on the afternoon/evening of Sunday, December 8th. My presentation will be in English on the topic of community building strategies but I think the bulk of the meeting will be in Chinese.

A draft agenda is as follows (this may change):

3:00 - 3:10 pm Short introduction about Mozilla/Firefox l10n related work 
3:10 - 3:30 pm the translation guide lines introduction
3:30 - 3:45 pm break
3:45 - 4:45 pm Firefox OS and Firefox Marketplace
4:45 - 5:00 pm break and free discussion
5:00 - 6:00 pm AMO, MDN, SUMO translation, l10n sprint
6:05 - 6:45 pm Gen's speech & QA
6:45 - 7:15 pm Pizza dinner
7:15 - 8:00 pm Movie "Code Rush"

– Event venue
上海市静安区昌平路990号8号楼 联合创业办公社 (延平智阁)
Google Maps link

Please feel free to either show up at the event itself or if you’d like, please leave a comment and we’ll know to look for you. Hope you can join us!

The Economist on the Internet in China

Gady Epstein, who is the China Correspondent for The Economist  has put together a large 14-page special report on the Internet in China. I strongly recommend it.

Gady was also on this week’s Sinica Podcast talking about this special report, which I also strongly recommend: Gady Epstein on The Internet (in China)

Special report: China and the internet

China’s internet: A giant cage
The internet was expected to help democratise China. Instead, it has enabled the authoritarian state to get a firmer grip, says Gady Epstein. But for how long?

The machinery of control: Cat and mouse
How China makes sure its internet abides by the rules

Microblogs: Small beginnings
Microblogs are a potentially powerful force for change, but they have to tread carefully

The Great Firewall: The art of concealment
Chinese screening of online material from abroad is becoming ever more sophisticated

E-commerce: Ours, all ours
A wealth of internet businesses with Chinese characteristics

Cyber-hacking: Masters of the cyber-universe
China’s state-sponsored hackers are ubiquitous—and totally unabashed

Internet controls in other countries: To each their own
China’s model for controlling the internet is being adopted elsewhere

Assessing the effects: A curse disguised as a blessing?
The internet may be delaying the radical changes China needs

John Lilly at Mozilla

My first day at Mozilla was in Tokyo in January of 2006.

I was working for a search engine startup but was looking for a new opportunity as I wasn’t optimistic about that startup’s viability.

Joi Ito, who gave me the opportunity to work at that startup, contacted me early in 2006 (right after the Firefox 1.5 release) to say that, “The Mozilla guys are in Tokyo. Can you join me in some meetings with them?”

That turned out to be Chris Beard, Paul Kim and John Lilly who were in Tokyo for the first time. I was thrown into meetings and strategy sessions around starting the Tokyo office. I remember being asked at the end of that week, (by who I forget, maybe it was Joi?) “So, what do you think? Are you going to join us?”

Of course I did.

My first year at Mozilla was very intense as John worked closely with the team in Tokyo to get us up to speed and prepared for growth. I think John had 3-4 trips to Tokyo that year alone. It was a very exciting time and I learned so much about Mozilla and open source and the power of our community from John directly.

In 2007, I worked with John over multiple trips to scout out our situation in China. We ultimately hired Li Gong to lead the China effort and open our office in Beijing.

As Mozilla grew, and I changed roles to join the Evangelism team, and moved my focus from Japan to the rest of Asia, I spent less time working with John directly, but his influence on my work and perspective is ever-present.

John is not leaving Mozilla per se, although he won’t be around the office day-to-day anymore. As he joins Mozilla’s Board of Directors, his influence and guidance will continue.

John, thank you so much for all that you have given to Mozilla and to all of us.

I’ll close with a few photos from ‘back in the day’ from the archives.

John Lilly


Firefox 2 Japan press event 2

John Lilly at Firefox 2 press event, Tokyo, Japan

John Lilly & Chris Beard in Tian'anmen Square

John Lilly visits CSIP

John Lilly presenting at Tsinghua Univ.

Jeremy Goldkorn, uknown, Ching Chiao, John Lilly

John Lilly in Shanghai

John Lilly in Shanghai

learn about Chinese Internet at the Sinica Podcast

For those of you on Planet Mozilla who are interested in learning more about China and trends in the Chinese Internet, I’d like to recommend the Sinica Podcast.  There’s a lot of great websites out there covering China but not many good podcasts. This one is the best, imo (at least in English.)

Sinica is proud to present a series of podcasts focusing on politics, economics, international relations and how it all relates to China. Hosted by Kaiser Kuo, with regular guest appearances by Jeremy Goldkorn, Bill Bishop and some of the leading figures in the Chinese Internet and media economy, Sinica is a show produced by those in the know for those in the know. We hope you enjoy it.

The host is Kaiser Kuo, an American-born Chinese, currently with Baidu. Other regular guests are Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei, the entrepreneur Bill Bishop, PR expert Will Moss of Imagethief, Gady Epstein of Forbes, and other guests.

What I like about this podcast is that everyone is somehow in professional media in some way and so the level of discussion is quite good.  The most recent two episodes delve into two of the recent scandals on the Chinese Internet- the Li Gang hit-and-run murder and the 360 Qihoo vs QQ controversy. These two stories couldn’t be more different from each other but they show in various ways how vastly different the Internet in China is from what we experience elsewhere.

I’m sad that there isn’t a podcast of this quality covering other countries in Asia but that’s a different rant for another day.

QQ vs 360 – on the Chinese Internet users lose

There are many aspects of the Internet in China that make it unique (see Internet censorship in the People’s Republic of China, a page that is no doubt blocked from view in China.)

  • state censorship of non-Chinese content via the Great Firewall
  • internal (to China) censorship of content by Chinese Internet companies
  • self-censorship that is a hallmark of any regime that does not have free speech laws

These are but 3 of the many differences of the Internet in China vs. elsewhere.

Sadly, there are non-censorship related issues around commercial software vendors and their competitive practices that are terrible for Chinese Internet users.  The most recent battle on the Chinese Internet is between Tencent, who’s QQ brand has over 600 million users of their instant messaging service, and 360 an ‘anti-virus’ software company that has 300 million clients installed and is so aggressive as to cross the line (in my opinion) of marking legitimate software as “viruses” if they are competitive with any software that 360 also provides.

If I had to put this in Western terms, it would be as if Norton/Mcafee marked AOL Instant Messenger/Yahoo! IM/etc. as virus software.

360 vs QQ, Internet security company picks fight with China’s NO. 1 software giant
(the Japanese manga-style cartoons are a little disturbing)

EastSouthWestNorth has translations of key statements from QQ and a news report from MOP:

360 PK Tencent (10/31/2010) (MOP)

360 Is Hackerware (11/01/2010) (

China Tech News is reporting that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Ministry of Public Security is now involved in this corporate dispute without any resolution to date.

Qihoo 360: Chinese Government Interferes In Tencent Internet Dispute

And today, Tencent (QQ) has issued an ultimatum to it’s 600 million users that users of QQ cannot use 360’s anti-virus software.

Tencent threatens its users with an ultimatum

China’s Internet users have so many challenges to deal with, from the state, to the companies that run Chinese Internet services, that corporate in-fighting between Chinese application providers (who are not even directly competing with each other) should be the last straw.

My opinion? If you are an Internet user in China, switch to Linux or Mac OS and get off Windows, because Chinese application providers only build for Windows and thus getting off Windows means getting rid of the need for Chinese applications altogether.  You won’t have these problems with open source software.

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.

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?

Will China’s Great Firewall Hold?

One day before US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom, the New America Foundation has hosted a panel discussion on Chinese censorship of the Internet with Alex Ross of the State Department, Rebecca MacKinnon of the Open Society Institute, Tim Wu of Columbia University, and Evgeny Morozov of Georgetown University. The discussion was moderated by James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly.

Authority, Meet Technology: Will China’s Great Firewall Hold?

For those who prefer the audio, you can download the MP3 Recording of This Event.

bad news on web browsers in China

Two pieces of news regarding web browsers in China, unfortunately neither of them good news.

China Tech News is reporting that Kingsoft, a software security package, and 360 Browser, which purports to be a more secure browser from Qihoo, are no longer working together as they had claimed to do earlier this year.

Browser War: China’s 360, Kingsoft Cease Tech Security Cooperation

While I haven’t been to the mainland recently (since 2007 in fact) I think a lot of the problems around software security and piracy are still par for the course.  That two “security” software vendors can’t work together just means that the user loses.  Kingsoft also claimed to be working with Maxthon earlier this year, Kingsoft, Maxthon To Jointly Develop Secure Browser– we’ll see if that ends up a better partnership than with Qihoo.

Then there is more ominous news from the BBC and The Register regarding the fact that Opera has forced all users of Opera Mini in China to use the Chinese language Mini. This comes with a new proxy server that is filtering access to websites like Facebook and Twitter, which used to be accessible.

Opera web browser ‘censors’ Chinese content

Opera plugs hole in Great Firewall of China

In fact Twitter users in China were complaining of this a few days before the BBC article was posted. There’s a lot to dislike about this outside of the fact that it looks like Opera is working with the Chinese government to filter the web for Chinese users. It also means that if you are an expatriate in China, and you’re more comfortable with an English interface for your web browser, you can’t use Opera Mini in English in China.

This is a sad day for the open web in China.

Asia-related links I am reading

China’s censorship arms race escalates – Excellent coverage on Internet censorship in Mainland China by Rebecca Mackinnon.

Why and How Facebook should come to Southeast Asia – Bernard Leong’s excellent treatise on Facebook in SE Asia. If he wasn’t running his own SNS, Facebook should hire Bernard 😉

Google Losing in China as New Users Go to Baidu – Google losing search market share in China.

Forbes: The Man Who’s Beating Google – Long portrait of Robin Li, Founder & CEO of Baidu.

Japan’s PPC ad market will reach $2 billion by 2013 – Decent, but it could/should be bigger.

E-Commerce Is Getting Chinese to Loosen Their Purse Strings – NYT on ecommerce trends in China. Ecommerce and the related Internet advertising to support ecommerce will be key to a more vibrant web in China.

South Korea Approves Sale of Apple’s iPhone – Channy has been waiting for this day for a long time 🙂

South Korea Clears Way for iPhone Sales – No one has still explained how S. Koreans are going to do anything on the iPhone that requires a secure transaction if no Korean web services support SSL.

Vietnam’s rebounding economy – V not yet for victory – Economist on Vietnam’s macroeconomic challenges.

Software piracy costs Vietnam $275 million every year – Vietnam has done well with open source software but could do a lot more.

Want to live like Commons people?
Joi Ito talks about Creative Commons, Twitter, and the White House – Guardian UK interviews Joi Ito.