Tips on subverting China's censorship of Flickr

Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield tells how to get around China's blocking of Yahoo photo-sharing site.

SAN FRANCISCO--The Chinese government has begun blocking access to Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site, but co-founder and general manager Stewart Butterfield has a tip on how to get around it.

China is blocking only Flickr's images, Butterfield said in an interview here Tuesday during a party to celebrate the company's expansion beyond the English-speaking world and the launch of the 24 Hours of Flickr book. The way in which the country is doing so means that the Firefox Web browser, augmented with the Greasemonkey plug-in, can automatically bypass the block.

Specifically, Greasemonkey needs to run a script that changes the Flickr server name into its numeric Internet Protocol address, Butterfield said. That would indicate that the China block uses the Domain Name System (DNS), which translates alphanumeric addresses such as "" into the numeric addresses actually used to route packets of data over the Internet.

Zooomr CEO Thomas Hawk also pointed on Friday to a plug-in that can enable Firefox to bypass Flickr blocks in Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and other places.

On Flickr's official discussion site about the China censorship, the company said it's trying to take care of the problem.

"We know images from Flickr are still blocked and definitely care very much about our friends who cannot access pictures. We have been contacting people to hopefully get a positive resolution with restoration of photos, but this of course has not happened yet," the company said on Monday.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.


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