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Baidu's William Chang: 'No reason for China to use Wikipedia'

William Chang, chief scientist at China's leading search engine, said it's natural for Chinese to use Baidu's encyclopedia rather than the foreign Wikipedia.

William Chang, chief scientist leading Chinese search engine Baidu, said it's natural for Chinese to use Baidupedia (Baidu Baike) rather than the foreign Wikipedia.

"There's, in fact, no reason for China to use Wikipedia, a service based 'out there,'" Chang said at the WWW2008 conference in Beijing on Tuesday. "It's very natural for China to make its own products."

I agree that there's not always a reason for people to use global services, especially when what they deal with is primarily domestic. But with the wiki world, I think the value of cross-border, multilingual conversation is astonishingly high.

Especially as autotranslation gets better, the benefit of not having populations nationally siloed comes into focus. If we can both read and contribute knowledge to something that primarily exists in a language I don't know, then we really can share knowledge.

Until that utopian vision comes true, though, it very well may be that Wikipedia isn't yet built ideally for Chinese users. Perhaps Baidu is doing a better job for people in this country. But I hope we can all get to conversing across this divide.

For now, it's more or less moot. As I reported before, despite the fact that Wikipedia in English is now available from China, the Chinese-language version is still blocked.

Other posts from WWW2008 are here, and I'm twittering here.