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Chinese site to get Dow indexes

Dow Jones will provide financial indexes for SinaNet, which is seeking to become the primary Net gateway for Chinese speakers.

Dow Jones will provide financial indexes for SinaNet, encouraging the Web site in its goal to become the primary Internet gateway among Chinese-speaking Netizens.

The terms of the agreement are the same as other Dow Jones agreements, said Richard Ciuba, a spokesman for the financial publishing giant. Dow Jones will provide its information for free as long as SinaNet also presents it without charge. SinaNet will be responsible for the technology and programming of the information on the site.

"We now have indexes available for millions of Chinese viewers which we previously didn't have," Ciuba said.

SinaNet will translate Dow Jones indexes into both traditional and simplified Chinese characters and post the text as image files, which is similar to what it does in its SinaSearch directory.

Since the Chinese language has two character sets--a traditional one commonly used in Hong Kong and Taiwan and a simplified set used in mainland China--two pieces of software usually are required to read them. This poses many problems for Web developers wishing to appeal to all Chinese speakers.

SinaSearch's solution to the discrepancy is simply to use image files to display the text, allowing a user to choose the appropriate set. That way the user needs no special software to read the text, just a Web browser.

SinaSearch gives the user the option to convert the text into code if the user has the necessary software.

Today's agreement is the latest in a string deals that SinaNet has inked to step up its efforts to be the Web portal of choice for Chinese users. Just last week, SinaNet signed on Excite to power its search engine, which works with both traditional and simplified Chinese characters.

In addition, last month SinaNet added free email--which has become a near-requirement for portal sites--to its list of service and technology offerings. Called SinaMail, the free Web-based email service also addresses the two-character issue by allowing the user to convert messages into either form.

"We have no shame being a fast follower of the U.S. portal model," said Dion Lim, SinaNet's chief financial officer.

Lim considers Yahoo to be one of SinaNet's primary competitors, now that the leading portal site has launched its own offering to Chinese speakers worldwide. Netscape Communications has also entered the arena last month when it unveiled its own Chinese-language guide.

Lim hopes today's agreement will be the first of many. Given that technology and Internet companies are increasingly looking toward Asia to extend their content offerings, as well as considering SinaNet's 1.2 million page views a day, Lim believes his company is in a prime position to make higher-profile distribution deals.