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Great firewall of China still blocking online trade - Backbone IT Group

Internet censorship is effectively preventing thousands of American and European e-commerce websites from reaching Chinese consumers, claim Internet marketing consultants Backbone IT Group in a recent study. Indeed, websites hosted outside mainland China's "Great Firewall" take over 20 times as long to load when compared to their Chinese-hosted equivalents, often rendering them completely unusable.

Thousands of American and European e-commerce websites risk missing out on potential Chinese consumers, despite a recent relaxation of China's Internet censorship for the Olympic Games, according to Internet marketing firm Backbone IT Group. The online consultancy reports that loading speeds for websites not hosted in China are being crippled by China's "Golden Shield" firewall project, meaning that even if Western websites can be accessed from China, they are often rendered completely unusable.

In Backbone's research study websites hosted outside the Chinese firewall were found to have average load times over twenty times (2,120%) longer than their Chinese-hosted equivalents.

"Local hosting is still essential for websites targeting the Chinese market, and this will remain the case for the foreseeable future," explains Andrew Clarke, Co-Director of Backbone IT Group. 

The Great Firewall, a system designed to restrict Chinese access to politically sensitive websites, has been partially unblocked for the Beijing Olympics to allow internet users to view previously banned sites such as Amnesty International, Wikipedia and BBC News. However, an unfortunate side-effect of the firewall is that even websites which are accessible are slowed down massively by the government's monitoring system. Overseas websites are especially vulnerable to the effect.

"There is a two-tier internet in China," says Clarke, "… fast-loading Chinese sites and sluggish, often inaccessible non-Chinese sites. In terms of user experience, there is no contest for the Chinese consumer." 

"The Chinese online market is growing at a phenomenal rate and with an estimated 250 million users China now has the largest Internet population in the world" comments Co-Director Richard Unwin. 

* Backbone IT Group, founded in 1999, specialises in creating and promoting Chinese language e-commerce websites within the Great Firewall, and is a multinational online marketing company with offices in Nanjing. In addition to providing Chinese web design, Backbone IT Group has now also formed an agreement with a leading Chinese payment merchant, enabling the company to provide clients with a full-service e-commerce package.

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