Facebook and China: a marriage definitely not made in heaven

great wall chinaSo, much of the talk this week has been whether Facebook’s latent desire to crack the Chinese market is actually going to lead anywhere. I wrote a piece for The Register based around some excerpts from the social networking giant’s IPO which indicate it is definitely still keen.

The next question to ask, then, is whether this is a good idea for Zuckerberg and co. I mean, he may be trying to learn Mandarin but that’s not going to count for much in the hard nosed business world in which Facebook now operates.

Firstly, it’s obvious that any Facebook – China detente is likely going to have to involve the former making some pretty big concessions over censorship and restricting certain content. That may give it the keys to the Chinese kingdom but it’s certainly not going to win it any friends internationally.

The repercussions of Twitter’s recent decision to allow tweets to be removed at a country level are still to be felt but the firm may be in danger of undoing all the good work its service has managed in the Middle East and beyond giving voice to the oppressed and ignored. Facebook could very easily follow in its path.

Secondly, as I mentioned in my news story, the firm will have some fierce competition from some quite mature and very popular home grown social networking rivals such as Sina, Tencent and Renren.

Finally, and maybe more importantly for Zuck and co, was the point made in a Reuters report that online advertising is still not a very big deal in China. As I’m sure the social networking behemoth is aware, the Chinese market is not the cash cow many are making it out to be.


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