Attempting to transcend national and political borders with the commonality of language, Yahoo has launched Yahoo Chinese in hopes of becoming the preferred Internet guide for the world's Chinese speakers.
Yahoo Chinese is the online media company's 13th site in its international network that encompasses services in Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia.
Since the Chinese written language has a simplified form, commonly used in mainland China, and a traditional form, commonly used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the site comes in two different versions. Each version requires specific software to decipher the respective codes.
Similar in appearance to the firm's other sites, Yahoo Chinese features local content compiled by native Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese technicians in categories such sports, culture, arts, and medicine.
Users also are provided with links to local news organizations such as mainland China's state-run Xinhua news agency or Taiwan's Central News Agency as well as Western news organizations such as Bloomberg, the Associated Press, and Agence France Presse.
"We think the Chinese community is a fascinating community," said Heather Killen, vice president of the international division at Yahoo. "I think a lot of members of the Chinese community are equally at home in a number of places. They have friends and relatives scattered around many places. They are a savvy?well-educated, physically mobile group."
For many years, Yahoo has had its eye on creating a site to compete with an increasing number of search engines and online content services vying for traffic in the huge but nascent Chinese market. By aiming its services at the entire Chinese community, today's launch could put Yahoo in an advantageous position to reap the rewards of attracting an information-hungry population spanning many nations.
"If you look at the whole Chinese community, there's a huge demand for Chinese content and search for Chinese content," said Xueni Ye, a Chinese-language software developer with International Communications in Framingham, Massachusetts.
But Ye pointed out that content is still a sticky matter, especially in mainland China where the Internet is strictly controlled and Web sites are often blocked if deemed politically subversive by the government.
"For anything to really work in China, the Internet is still very controlled by government," said Ye, a mainland Chinese native. "I don't see how they can get to mainland viewers freely without being blocked."
Though the launch has not been aggressively marketed yet in mainland China, Killen noted that Yahoo has been in the process of formalizing its presence in the country.
"We are developing a dialogue with relevant agencies in Chinese government to address concerns in providing access to a product appropriate for mainland users," said Killen.