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"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.