Monday, November 21, 2005

Survey Studies Internet Use in China

A typical Chinese Internet user is a young male who prefers instant messaging to e-mail, rarely makes online purchases and favors news, music and games sites , according to a new study.

The only major public opinion research tracking Internet use in China, the survey was conducted in five cities by Guo Liang of the prominent Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, the government's main think tank.

According to the study, released Thursday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, about two-thirds of survey participants use the Internet for news ?often entertainment-related ?or for online games. About half download music and movies.

They also tend to prefer instant messaging to e-mail, and they are relying on the Internet more frequently than before to contact others who have the same professions, hobbies and political interests.

Online purchases still remain unpopular in China.

Three-quarters of users surveyed have never bought anything over the Internet, and only 10 percent make purchases even once a month. Among those who do buy online, most pay for entertainment while others buy phone cards, or computer hardware or software.

"Many people don't trust the quality of goods bought online," Guo said Wednesday. "If they buy it in a store and don't like it, they can easily bring it back."

The survey was conducted in five major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Changsha. The cities also were surveyed in 2003 as part of the ongoing study that began in 2000 as a way to provide empirical data and analysis on Internet development in China. Results do not necessarily project countrywide because Internet use in rural areas is lower than in cities.

Guo, the academy's leading Internet expert, describes the typical netizen in the five cities surveyed as young, male, richer and more highly educated.

Males make up two-thirds of the Internet community, and more than 80 percent of users are under 24. Among people ages 25 to 29, 60 percent to 80 percent go online.

China has more than 100 million people online, second in the world to the United States, according to government statistics.

Its government has aggressively promoted Internet use for education and business, though it has also tried to keep its citizens from material it deems subversive or pornographic. Online dissidents are regularly arrested.

According to Guo's survey, more than one-third of the urban users surveyed do not use e-mail. Of those that do, only about one-third check their e-mail at least once a day.

"I think Chinese people prefer instant contact. Very few Chinese use answering machines and e-mail is like an answering machine. It's convenient but but not immediate," Guo said.

Forty-two percent say they do not engage search engines. Those who do seek leisure or entertainment news, as well as information useful for work or study. Traditional news ranked behind those searches. Online portal Baidu.com was used by half of those surveyed, compared with a quarter for Google, the leading search engine in the United States.

The survey, conducted in February and March, was based on random door-to-door household interviews in the five major cities. The sample size was 2,376, including 1,169 Internet users and 1,207 nonusers.

___

On the Net:

Markle Foundation: http://www.markle.org

China Internet Project: http://www.wipchina.org

China Internet Network Information Center: http://www.cnnic.cn

Friday, November 18, 2005

Google offers "advertise on this site" feature

Google offers "advertise on this site" feature

2 hours, 29 minutes ago

Web search leader Google Inc. is offering a new private-label feature that allows advertisers to sign up directly on Web sites where they wish to advertise, the company said on Friday.

The Mountain View, California-based company said the feature, known as Onsite Advertiser Sign-up, will help Web site publishers connect with a wider range of small advertisers when using Google's behind-the-scenes ad management system.

Previously, advertisers seeking to market on Web sites using Google's syndicated AdSense advertising system had to enroll through Google's AdWords program and list sites where they wished their ads to be featured.

The new feature ties site owners and advertisers more directly. In turn, site owners and Google each receive a cut resulting ad sales.

AdSense, which allows Web site publishers to run keyword text or image ads through a system managed by Google, has become a phenomenally popular way for sites to generate revenue from each ad clicked on by site visitors. Google receives 99 percent of its revenue from advertising sales.

The new feature is designed to allow Web sites to sign-up smaller advertisers while leaving the headaches of managing the production and billing process to Google's automated software.

Advertisers wishing to advertise directly on a Web sites using the syndicated Google advertising program can click on an "Advertise on This Site" link that takes them to a Google page where they can create an AdWords ad for the specific Web site.

Ads created through Onsite Advertiser Sign-Up will compete in the same auction as all other Google ads. The new feature is an extension of Google's site-targeted advertising, which was launched earlier this year.

More information on the onsite advertising program will be available at http://www.google.com/services/oasu/.

Fun-driven Internet in China may become powerful political tool

The Internet in China is heavily driven by entertainment but has the potential of becoming a powerful political weapon, according to a poll.

 

The survey, directed by a Chinese professor and funded by a US foundation, showed that 84 percent of Internet users sought information on the Web, mostly pertaining to entertainment.

 

As many as 65 percent of Internet users believed that the Web was a key entertainment source, said the poll, conducted in five cities -- Beijing, Chengdu, Changsha, Shanghai and Guangzhou -- in February-March 2005, covering 2,376 people, over half of them Internet users.

 

"The Internet is supposed to be the information highway but according to our survey, for many Internet users in China, it is an entertainment highway," said Professor Guo Liang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences of Beijing.

 

"Mainland Chinese use the Internet more for entertainment and chatting than for seeking information or news or for working or studying," he said, releasing the survey findings at a briefing at Brookings Institution in Washington.

 

Guo Liang, whose study was supported by New York-based philanthrophy Markle Foundation, said entertainment-linked items were most popular among online shoppers while leisure and entertainment topics were the most sought after in Internet search engines.

 

But he stressed that the Internet in China -- now second only to the United States in the number of people online, with over 103 million Internet users -- had not replaced television as the principal source of entertainment.

 

Yet, Internet users spend an average 2.7 hours a day online -- more than the time spent on television by people who do not use the Internet, according to the findings by Guo Liang, a philosopher by training described by the respected Brookings Institution as a "pre-eminent" observer of the Internet in China.

 

Amid increasing charges that the Chinese government was stifling online free expression, only 7.6 percent of those polled believed that political content on the Internet should be controlled.

 

But survey respondents had "strong expectations" that the Internet would change politics in China, which is today -- according to global media watchdog Reporters without Borders -- the "world's biggest prison for cyber-dissidents."

 

Some 62.8 percent of those surveyed agreed that by using the Internet, people would be well versed in politics, while 60.4 percent felt that top officials would better understand public views through the Internet.

 

In addition, 55.3 percent felt that by using the Internet, the Chinese communist leadership could better serve the people, and 54.2 percent agreed that people had more opportunities to criticize the government online.

 

In the survey, 45.1 percent also agreed that more opportunities would be available to express their political views via the Web.

 

"The trend is, more people agree with that than disagree, and I think partly because people are not satisfied with the current situation -- the traditional way to deal with the government -- (and) they expect the Internet can help," Guo Liang said.

 

The survey findings showed that the "political impact of the Internet is more significant in China than it is in other countries.

 

"Thus we can predict that as Internet use becomes more popular in China, its impact on politics will be stronger."

 

When asked to comment on rigid state controls over the Internet, Guo Liang asked, "If Internet control is very serious and if such control is very successful, why are so many people spending so much time and money on the Net?

 

"The problem is not political controls, my feeling is that most of the younger people in China, they don't care about politics. They care about how to make money and how to have fun. They want to enjoy life," he said.

 

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Google Expands Reach With Database Project

By The Associated Press
InternetWeek
Wed Nov 16,12:36 PM ET

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- An ambitious new Google Inc. service lets anyone upload most anything to a publicly searchable database, potentially laying the groundwork for a foray by the Internet juggernaut into classified advertising.

The venture, Google Base, could lead to a vast expansion of its content and signal grander ambitions for the king of online search-related advertising. Google's stated mission is, after all, nothing less than organizing the world's information.

Launched as a ``beta test'' early Wednesday, Google Base has the potential to make instantly available a vast sea of content including _ but not limited to _ recipes, job ads, photos, DNA sequences, real estate listings and individual standalone databases.

Normally, it takes Web ``crawlers'' days or weeks to scour the Web and feed Google's main search engine with updated information, but they usually can't penetrate content buried in databases. This tool will make locating anything that's been uploaded nearly instantaneous, provided it finds users willing to provide the content.

Submitters will also be able to describe what they uploaded with keywords _ making searches and filters easier and more reliable.

``This is all part of our efforts to make it really easy for anyone with information to make it accessible from Google,'' said Salar Kamangar, vice president of product management at Google. ``We just felt like this piece was just missing before.''

What's less clear is exactly what Google plans to do with what it amasses. The Mountain View-based company said the primary purpose of Google Base's release is to study and improve how the information is collected and categorized.

Kamangar said the company eventually wants to integrate the results with results from its main search engine, its local search site, which identifies results by geographical location, and its shopping comparison service, Froogle.com.

As it stands, Google Base has no mechanism for transacting business, whether buying a car or applying for a job. But its patrons _ a job listings service, say _ will be able to provide links in whatever they upload to commercial sites that do.

If Google goes commercial with the new service, which is widely expected, it could pose a formidable threat not only to traditional classified businesses such as newspapers but also online sites like eBay and Craigslist.

Speculation has been further fueled by a patent application for a service called Google Automat that helps would-be sellers generate advertising. The company also is known to be working on an online payment system.

And last month, Web surfers stumbled on an early version of Google Base that invited people to list things like a used car for sale and a party planning service.

``Honestly I think there is no master plan other than 'Let's put this tool out there and see what people do with it,''' said Danny Sullivan, editor of the industry newsletter Search Engine Watch.

Data uploaded to Google Base can be transferred one item at a time or in bulk. There's no limit on how many items users can send, though the database currently restricts the number of pictures in each submission and does not support video or audio.

Submitters are invited to choose from an existing set of item types or can enter their own category. In another step, each entry can be tagged with labels that are either suggested by Google or defined by the user.

If a recipe is submitted, the initial category might be ``Recipe'' while tags could be created describing the type of cuisine, serving size, level of spiciness and main ingredient type. People looking for recipes could then refine results by clicking on the tags.

Google Base attempts to get around the problem of spelling variations by suggesting attributes based on what other people have associated with their information in the past, Kamangar said.

``This is really an experiment for us,'' he said. ``We're going to be very open to shifting and changing it depending on how it goes.''

A handful of commercial and noncommercial sites have been testing the service for several weeks.

The World Resources Institute has submitted information on a 5 million-record database on sustainable development for 200 countries over a period of up to a century.

``This gives us another way to index our information and hopefully allow our users to find some connections between some issues they haven't seen before,'' said Amy Cassara, senior associate at the Washington, D.C.-based institute.

She said sending information to Google is simpler than building the site so that Google's automated crawler captures the information.

``It puts the provider of the information in control of what kind of content the public can see,'' Cassara said, adding the group is optimistic Google Base will drive more traffic to the institute's information and site.

CareerBulder.com also is hoping to make its data _ job listings _ accessible to more people, said Richard Castellini, CareerBuilder's vice president of consumer marketing.

Other businesses offering classifieds also might find Google Base a helpful way to increase traffic, but that decision could end up haunting them if Google decides to launch tools to complete transactions, said Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research.

``It's like getting in bed with enemy,'' she said.

Google gives Web users a new base

Google Inc launched a service on Wednesday that gives Web users an online venue to publish anything from a recipe to a research paper.

The service, called "Google Base," invites users to choose labels and attributes for their content that will make it easier for other people to search the site.

The service (http://base.google.com) is free and gives a unique Web address to each user's content, allowing people to easily post information without the need to create and maintain a Web page.

Depending on the relevance of the content, users' information may also appear on other Google properties like Froogle and Google Local, Google said.

Google has 380 million users per month, according to its Web site, and has been expanding its services to include products such as email and voice and instant messaging.

Last month, Google said it was testing the Base service, but would not confirm whether the move was part of a broader push into online shopping to compete with the likes of eBay Inc. or Amazon.com Inc..

Analysts said then that if Google combined the publishing system with its Froogle shopping service and other offerings, it could compete with local classified advertising on sites such as eBay or Craig's List or online shopping at Amazon.com.

US to keep control of domain names

Under an agreement struck at the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, the United States will retain control of the domain-name system controlling the Internet.

The European Union and some countries had hoped to put the system under international control, which they believed would lead to enhanced cooperation among governments.

Some countries, such as Iran and Brazil, argued that the United Nations or another global organization should take over management of the domain-name system.

But the U.S. countered that such a situation would stifle innovation by tangling the system in red tape.

Over Seeing

The recent decision is one in a long line of debates over Internet governance. Part of the difficulty has been that in the Internet's early days, administration of domain names was done on an ad hoc basis.

In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Commerce mandated that a nonprofit group, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), should take over the task.

Since then, ICANN has been under fire for its reluctance to transfer the system to the global community.

With the decision at the conference to continue ICANN's administration, it is likely that the debate over governance will continue throughout the conference and well into the future.

To Be Decided

The agreement at the conference to keep domain-name control in the U.S. is a major decision, but some analysts and observers are eager for more detail about where to go from here.

"There are a number of things happening at once, a range of issues concerning free speech and new architectures, and basically it all got deferred [at the conference]," said Michael Froomkin, a founding editor of ICANNWatch.org, and professor at the University of Miami School of Law, specializing in Internet law.

"The issue for me is whether someone will come along and try to impose new architectures that create chokepoints," he said. "There's nothing in the reports about the details of this. Everything has been left for another day."

Yahoo Survey Has Good News For Small Online Retailers

Holiday shoppers will look toward small online retailers for unique gifts this holiday season, according to a report released Wednesday by Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news)'s small business unit.

The survey is an attempt to gauge how online shoppers in America plan to purchase things for the holidays, said Jimmy Duvall, director of eCommerce products for Yahoo Small Business. "This gives our merchants a sense that people are very interested in shopping online and they plan to do so this year," he said.

The Web survey suggests 83 percent of participants said they would shop for holiday gifts online, and 80 percent said they are likely to purchase gifts online from small businesses, said the survey.

Nearly, 30 percent of holiday shoppers polled said they will do at least half of their holiday shopping online. In addition, nearly 63 percent said online specialty or 'niche' retailers are the best places to shop for unusual or hard-to-find gifts.

Higher gasoline prices could prompt push online sales higher, according to the survey. If gas prices at the pump remain high, 79 percent said they would change their shopping habits during the holiday buying season. Asked how they might change, many shoppers indicated they would be on the road less and on the Web more.

Surprisingly, 59 percent of the survey participants said it was important their favorite specialty or gift stores have an online presence. Seventy percent said they had no preference between shopping online with small versus large businesses.

Survey participants, 75 percent, said the key reasons for holiday gift shopping online with small businesses are convenient hours. Others indicated they didn't have to deal with crowded parking lots and could find the perfect gift. Only 5 percent indicated low prices as a

Yahoo on Tuesday launched a new shopping site were online visitors can create their own list of products and add reviews and pictures. Laura Merling, executive director at non-profit consulting firm SDForum, which focuses on emerging technologies, said consumers will see more companies use targeted search technology this holiday season. Yahoo, which garners a transaction fee between .75 percent and 1.5 percent for each sale, hosts Web sites for more than 35,000 small businesses. They run the gamut from the small home-office business to those that sell apparel online such as goclothing.com .

Harris Interactive fielded the study on behalf of Yahoo! Small Business from October 25-27, 2005, through its QuickQuery online omnibus, interviewing 1,813 U.S. adults age 18 and over who plan to do any holiday gift shopping.

Chinese Internet star Alibaba.com vows to beat Google

Chinese Internet firm Alibaba.com has vowed to defeat US giant Google in the battle to become the dominant search engine for the potentially lucrative Chinese market.

Alibaba.com chief executive Jack Ma said his company was the undisputed king of the web in China after seeing off e-Bay and taking over Yahoo's Chinese operations in an August deal that secured a billion dollars of investment.

Ma said Google was vulnerable in China and that Alibaba would focus on building up its search engine to keep out Google.

Speaking to reporters at a meeting of Asia Pacific leaders in the South Korean city of Busan, Ma said Alibaba.com -- through its electronic retail unit taobao.com -- had already defeated e-commerce rival e-Bay.

He said Alibaba.com was over 20 times bigger than e-Bay and has 11 million product listings on its website.

"The game is almost over, finished. I'm not interested in that competition at all," Ma declared, referring to e-Bay.

"For the search engine, I think Google is very powerful. But it is not that powerful in China now," said Ma, who founded Alibaba.com in 1999 with 2,000 dollars of capital borrowed from relatives.

Asked to spell out Alibaba.com's strategy, Ma said: "We win e-Bay, buy Yahoo and stop Google. That is for fun. Competition is for fun."

He accepted that Google and Yahoo were the dominant Internet powers in Europe and the United States, but he said neither was that strong in Asia.

"I call them sharks in the ocean. We are crocodiles in the Yangtze River. If we fight in the Yangtze River, we have more chances than they have."

In August, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) bought 40 percent of Alibaba for one billion dollars and turned over its Chinese operations to help it grow faster in the Chinese market.

The joint venture created a combined entity valued at four billion dollars, with access to China's more than 100 million Internet users.

"We will use all the resources we have to focus on search in the next two to three years in China ... We already won (over) e-Bay, we already bought Yahoo and the money is to stop Google," Ma said.

Alibaba.com plans to expand in South Korea in the next two to three years, and later the Japanese market. While it also plans to boost its presence in Europe, its focus would remain in China and Asia.

A public listing for the company may only happen in three to five years, Ma said, adding that any decision on the matter must be taken for very good reasons.

Ma forecast China will become the "number one Internet country" in the world in five years.

Faster Internet access to spur Growth

Faster access to spur Internet growth By Duncan Martell


The Internet has given rise to profitable companies such as Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news), Google Inc., eBay Inc. and others, but the industry is still in the early days and will be further fueled as even faster Internet access proliferates through the United States and other countries, executives said on Wednesday.

"We are seeing the beginning of things," said Reed Hastings, chief executive of online DVD rental company Netflix at the TechNet Innovation Summit in San Jose, of video on the web. "Web 2.0 is broadband. Web 3.0 is 10 gigabits a second."

Now that more homes are connected at speeds of 2 to 3 gigabits per second, that has allowed for viewing of movie trailers and the like, and has opened up new markets for companies such as eBay, Salesforce.com and other Internet companies.

"Now we're seeing services and applications," said Jerry Yang, co-founder of Internet media firm Yahoo. "This has been one of the promises the Internet has offered for a long time -- the consumer can really be the programmer."

As broadband rolls out, companies such as Yahoo and online customer relationship management software maker Salesforce.com and others are building ever more complex services that run over the Internet and are used through a simple Web browser.

"Everything is really driven as a service over the Internet," said Mark Benioff, chief executives of Salesforce.com during a panel discussion on what is next for the Web. "Instead of that traditional concept of you having a data center in your house or your business, you will use these services."

For eBay, the leading online auctioneer, the Internet has obviously allowed it to connect buyers and sellers efficiently, cheaply and quickly, said Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America.

"It's all about freedom," Cobb said. What the Internet does now is it allows convergence between a seller and a buyer. All these inefficiencies in the supply chain can be eliminated."

In addition to building communities of buyers and sellers on the Internet, eBay has expanding its services. Recently it bought Skype, which lets its users talk over the Internet, allowing for another form of communication via the Internet.

"If you go to the heart of it it's about communications," Cobb said.