Archive for the Internet World Category

China’s VoIP decision: Skype illegal?

Posted in Internet World, Telecoms Policy on December 31, 2010 by thomas4infosoc

Stirring a bit of excitement especially in the international community living in China and using services such as those provided by Skype to not only stay in touch with friends and family, but also to cut down on the considerable communication costs stemming from the oligopoly of state-owned telecoms enterprises. More importantly, VoIP services (if not necessarily Skype itself, which has a neglectable market share among Chinese users) are a relevant cost-reducing factor for Chinese companies and private users, and any effort to thwart this will cause outrage among the online-savy (which in the case of VoIP, are 100 per cent of those affected, I guess).

Now will Skype become impossible  to use? I don’t know. But I find it interesting that this MIIT announcement takes on an aspect that also has been discussed in the EU for a long time: is VoIP telephony actual telephony? If it is, it would need to be regulated according to the same laws, regulations and standards as the telephony provided through traditional phone services. Part of the Chinese government apparently has decided to clean up and declare VoIP to be regular telephony – which in China means a strongly restricted service, with heavy licensing requirements.

In other countries, it is actually conceivable that VoIP providers appreciate this “normalisation”. Being subjected to a coherent regulatory framework has its benefits. In particular, it can mean access to scarce resources also relevant to VoIP, phone numbers in particular. As in most countries there is no licensing requirement for offering voice services, this is rather attrractive, because the price may only be the need to offer location-sensitive emergency  services, directories or contributions to a universal service fund.

Not too many regulators have taken on this consequent integration of VoIP into their regulatory domain, however. Ideas such as two-layered license regime have been around for many years: license requirement for services offering emergency calls and directory services and who want access to the numbering space in return , no license requirement for services that can do without the bonus features.

For more than a decade, VoIP is seen as an emerging service that has not yet reached critical mass and hence is kind of ignored. Which might be a good thing: taking traditionally heavily regulated services and removing them from the domain of heavy-hitting global players, offering them through small and clever start-ups instead who know how to make the best use of new technology – that is what innovation is all about.

And what does that mean for the use of Skype in China: Technology, like life, finds its way. Two things come together: major VoIP service providers such as Skype, MSN or Google (yes, Google Talk still exists) do not need to care whether they have a Chinese license or not. The more access to services relevant to many users gets restricted, the higher the probability that mass-market circumvention tools (still rather scarcely used by average Chinese online citizens) become omnipresent. Cracking down on (as sad as that is) minority interests such as political news is one thing – cutting holes into people’s wallets is a very different beast.

China’s VoIP decision means Skype now illegal – Policy & Regulation\cn-c114 ¡ª C114 – China Communication Network.

2010 McKinsey Study on internet behavior of Chinese consumers

Posted in e-commerce, Internet World on November 15, 2010 by thomas4infosoc

Combining the latest 2010 results on the extensive annual consumer survey started since 2005 and McKinsey 2010 Digital Consumer researches in China, India and Malaysia, Insights China has released its second report from the 2010 Annual Chinese Consumer Study.This report, titled “Digital nation on the Rise: Profiting from China’s Internet Revolution” focuses on how internet behavior in China is creating new opportunities and challenges for online marketers.

via McKinsey Solutions – InsightsChina – News.

Wired’s “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet”

Posted in etctetera, Internet World, News Clip on August 20, 2010 by thomas4infosoc

Wired Magazine does not give up on serving as Think Tank of the Information Society, and with their “Web is Dead, long live the Internet” they have stirred up some debate again. The debate is mainly about whether the future Web will be dominated by proprietary App-Environments, keeping the user within the confines of a coroprate  definition if what he is supposed to be interested in, with a stronger case for commercialising on the applications and their content  – or whether the provision of content and application will rather stay a half anarchic process, without an organising framework.

As I am myself very much inclined to detest any online environment that tries to keep me within branded walls (my first hate object used to be the detestable AOL Browser and the related portal – and this transfers easily to what Apple does these days), my preference is clearly on one side. I am not sure what I expect to happen, though: I see that many people are perfectly happy with one-stop-shopping computer experiences Apple-style, and give little weight to the limitations this imposes upon them (be it in the possible usage of an ipod or the range of applications available in an app store). So maybe the users have moved from well-sorted one-to-many provision of the tv and newspaper world through the initial anarchy and many-to-many internet, to another better sorted and better orgsnised, but also more commercial App-Web. As customers seem to be extremely prone to giving away any form of individualism when it comes to the equipment they are using, this all may just be a sign of the Web having become a little less exciting, but maybe a bit more reliable and easy to use.

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet | Magazine.

Disclosure of personal data in China getting out of control

Posted in Data Protection, Internet World on July 27, 2010 by thomas4infosoc

That there is massive abuse of personal information in China, especially when it comes to data collected through e-commerce providers, is no news. At a workshop on drafting of a Chinese Personal Data Protection Law that I hosted some years ago, an official from MIIT complained that when his wife gave birth to a child at a Beijing hospital, one day after registring with the hospital the spam text messages kept coming in from daycare centres, toy shops and ayi services… This China Daily report still stunned me with its focus on online dating services. Not that they all abuse (i.e. rigorously sell) the customer information (that was expected). But the share of Chinese netizens aged 15 to 30 that have at least once registered with an online dating agency:

95 per cent! Wow…

Disclosure of personal data a trend getting out of control.

The China Blog Restoration | Jottings from the Granite Studio

Posted in Internet World on July 27, 2010 by thomas4infosoc

The China Blog Restoration | Jottings from the Granite Studio.

Interesting discussion stemming from the Sinica podcast mentioned earlier: why is it that the China expat blog community seems to be stalled? Or stable? And why are there expat blogs on internet business, but not on raising pet monkeys?? mysterious.

New Sinica Podcast in the Death of China Blogs

Posted in Internet World, News Clip on July 24, 2010 by thomas4infosoc

Firstly: you have to subscribe to the Sinica Podcast, of course, or we’re done talking. Do it here and now: http://popupchinese.com/lessons/sinica/death-of-the-china-blog

Secondly: they discuss this week how the grande epoche of critical debate on China through the eyes of foreigners has come to an end – partly through inflation of blogs, partly through the lack of substance and perspective.

Thirdly: I agree in part with this, and do not want to contribute to that inflation (and dilution) by adding more to where there is already more than enough. But interesting is that there seems to be consolidation, and that the Sinica podcast is actually one of the places where this consolidation is most visible. No need anymore to read three blogs, just listen to the authors of those blogs discuss while riding your bike / electric bike / limousine / donkey to the office.