Welcome again to your Digital World update, profiling developments (or lack thereof) in international digital marketing and markets of interest. In this week’s Asia-heavy issue: Sina Weibo beats Twitter to the punch in expanding beyond its 140 character limit; Myanmar’s dramatic entrance into the Internet economy is profiled; the effects of censorship in both China and Iran are discussed; and a rogue Google localisation accidentally infringes on a Yandex copyright.
Earlier this month, Twitter hinted at plans for longposting features that would essentially remove the platform’s traditional 140 character posting limit. Following their lead, Chinese micro-blogging website Sin Weibo has confirmed that it will remove its own 140 character restrictions on 28 January. “Senior users” will receive the feature first, with a wider roll-out over the month to 28 February.
Users will still continue to see only the first 140 characters of a post – the rest of the post will expand when a user clicks a relevant link. Of course, Sina Weibo’s 140 characters were always quite different from Twitter’s – lone Chinese logograms (Hanzi) conveying far more meaning than the alphabets of other writing systems.
Just six years ago, Myanmar was a country where less than one percent of a population of 50 million had internet access. But as Tech In Asia discovers, the transition from military rule to democracy has caused a massive uplift in smartphone ownership: 12.8% of the population had a cellular subscription in 2013, and just one year later subscriptions had reached 49.5%.
What does Myanmar’s brave new internet landscape look like? Facebook, apparently. Users post news reports and political stories direct to their feeds without citing the original source, and professional writers are using Facebook as if it were a blogging platform. This has unfortunately lead to the misuse of the service, with uncited, damaging rumours circulating achieving credibility. Myanmar still has a problem with authoritarian action, however – read the full article for insight into where the country could go next.
A new report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China has surveyed American companies about their experience of China’s internet censorship policies, and unsurprisingly, just 5% claim that they have “no complaints”. 79% said that internet censorship had a negative impact on their ability to conduct business normally in China, with 36% specifying that censorship had an exclusively negative effect.
Interestingly, when asked to identify the aspects of internet control that specifically hindered businesses, actual inability to access sites was found to be less serious than the slow speed of accessing foreign websites (71% as compared with 77%). Nonetheless, 21% of American companies actually consider internet censorship in a positive light – perhaps, as Tech in Asia suggests, because large competitors such as Google are locked out of the market.
This week’s big geopolitical news story was the lifting of UN sanctions against Iran that have existed in some form or other since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The improving of relations between Iran and western powers could pave the way for fewer controls on Internet access exercised by the Iranian state – however, reports suggest that key platforms remain blocked at this time.
As The Next Web explains, the widely retweeted, over-enthusiastic claims by a Twitter user that he was “tweeting without having to use [a] VPN to bypass censorship”, may well have been a filtering failure on behalf of Iran’s firewall. An inconsistent picture is emerging at this time – other Iranian users are still finding Twitter and Facebook to be inaccessible and an Iranian official has been quoted saying that a ban on YouTube has not been lifted. Google’s own Transparency Report tool still lists Iran alongside other nations with major ongoing service disruptions.
Everything that a business localises needs to be technically accurate and culturally relevant: however, it’s easy to forget that there are other constraints placed on the language we can use in certain markets. A good example of this recently appeared on the Russian-language Google Books service, with the appearance of a new slogan “Найдется все!” (roughly “Find Everything” or “Everything will be found”). The problem? Dominant search presence Yandex copyrighted the term over a decade ago.
The text, appearing as a call to action in the short line of text under the Google Books search bar (now removed) was explained by Google as the result of a “translation error”.
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Lijiang, Yunnan, China photo by Flickr user Nick Turner
Balloons over Bagan photo by Flickr user Paul Arps
HRC China Great Wall Day 3 photo by Flickr user Kyle Taylor
Facets of heaven photo by Flickr user dynamosquito
Google Книги homepage screenshot from Vc.ru