AOL: Pearl among the swine?

Of course, compared to Google and Yahoo, AOL nowadays appears hopelessly uncool, almost something of a dinosaur, like ICQ and Compuserve. And yet I have to give them credit for proving that a huge American multinational can indeed say no to China’s governmental strong-arming without going bankrupt overnight. They’re out 1.2 billion customers, yet they still survived.

All of that was a preamble to my pointing out Rebecca’s fine post on AOL’s new and uncensored Chinese-language portal. It is intended for Chinese-American audiences, but according to Rebecca it appears to be accessible on the Mainland, at least for the moment. Better hurry if you want to check it out.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

yes, Yes, YES! I can finally search again! I’ve been search-engine-less since the google fiasco began. I’m so proud of you AOL. I almost feel the slightest bit bad for not using your official advertisement filled chat program… Almost.

February 14, 2006 @ 3:03 am | Comment

“I’ve been search-engine-less since the google fiasco began”

How so? is still available and uncensored.

February 14, 2006 @ 4:51 am | Comment

I have put Google on my list of boycotted things. With Yahoo and MSN being on the list for the same reasons as Google, I was without a search engine for some time.

February 14, 2006 @ 6:51 am | Comment

I’m sure they are distraught!

February 14, 2006 @ 7:03 am | Comment

My wife and I have been using AOL instant messenger since before and after I left China for our communications because it’s the only messenger that doesn’t censor IM transmissions.

We’ve tried talking on MSN and Yahoo, but I suspect that when certain keywords are detected the entire message gets junked because we’ve had cases where I’ve sent several instant messages that were never received on her end and vise-versa.

It is a little hard to download AOL instant messenger in China sometimes and it’s especially difficult in the internet cafes. I suspect it’s because of this very reason.

February 14, 2006 @ 9:00 am | Comment

I think AOL entered the Chinese market in big fanfare around 2000 but failed miserably. If they’ve got a business plan for the China market, I don’t think they’d behave any differently from Google or Yahoo.

February 14, 2006 @ 10:37 pm | Comment

Heya Richard, long time no see. Beijing Loafer’s right: AOL got into China in June 2001, and sunk a lot of money into a JV ith Lenovo (nee Legend) which flopped spectacularly. Each side had committed $100 million to the JV, though the actual amount of cash each threw down that hole wasn’t close to that sum. I wrote a piece on it as it lay dying in the summer of 2003 for Time, but it got pulled under mysterious circumstances even after several rounds of editing. The editor of Time Asia in HK at the time told me it was best not to ask what happened. Surely AOL-Time Warner would have had the ethical mettle not to have censored a piece just because it made them look bad! Anyway, I can send it to you if you’d like. Oh, and some months later, the thing was allowed to quietly die. My surmise is that AOL has kept out of China to date first because of its abject failure first time ’round, second because a brand called “America Online” just ain’t ideal for the China market, and third because its ISP-and-ICP-in-One model just won’t work in China. I’d hardly chalk it up to any moral fortitude on AOL’s part.

Hope all’s well with you! The job I’ve been working for the last year prevents me from doing any blogging, alas. Miss it, though.

February 14, 2006 @ 11:47 pm | Comment

Hi Kaiser, thanks for the background on this.

February 15, 2006 @ 1:40 am | Comment

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