China's Internet population soars to 210 million
Country on track to surpass U.S. online community this year
The Chinese government said Friday its Internet population has soared to 210 million people, putting it on track to surpass the U.S. online community this year to become the world's largest.
The official China Internet Network Information Center, also known as CNNIC, said the online population grew 53 percent, from 137 million reported at the same time last year. According to the government's Xinhua News Agency, China is only 5 million behind the United States online, a figure consistent with some American estimates.
China still lags the United States in many respects, however.
Xinhua placed China's online penetration rate at 16 percent - the point Americans were at in the mid-1990s. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 75 percent of American adults are now online; penetration is even higher when teens are included. (China's stats cover Chinese 6 and older.)
"We're two countries at very different points along the adoption curve," said John Horrigan, Pew's associate director. "China is approximately 15 years behind."
Several other differences between the two markets mean Internet penetration has different meaning in China and the United States.
First, cybercafes serve as the main entry to the Internet for many Chinese unable to afford a computer at home. One-third of Chinese Internet users surf through cybercafes, according to Xinhua, while Pew found that 93 percent of U.S. Internet users have access at home.
Also, China is notorious for censorship. Although the government promotes Internet use for education and business, it tries to block the public from seeing material it deems pornographic or critical of communist rule, including new rules promulgated this month covering online videos.
And China's government imprisons people who mail, post online, or access politically sensitive content from within China. Reporters Without Borders says 50 Chinese "cyberdissidents" are currently in prison.
Nonetheless, China's online growth is significant
"Users do a lot to shape the Internet and not only by directly posting content but (by) their behavior," Horrigan said. "It tells other people what the demand is. As you get more Chinese, that increases demand for Internet content in Mandarin and other Chinese languages."
Horrigan also said many Chinese users are accessing the Internet through mobile devices, offering China "a distinct opportunity to shape the Internet" with usage everywhere.
China builds an ultrafast Internet
China has built its own version of an ultrafast next-generation Internet network that promises to reduce the country's dependence on foreign companies, the state news media reported Monday.
The China Education and Research Network has linked 167 institutes and departments at 25 universities in 20 cities through the Internet Protocol Version 6, China Central Television reported.
The current Internet is run by Internet Protocol Version 4, which is limited by the numbers of Internet addressesthat can be created and lacks advanced security functions, the report said.
The new protocol can work at speeds of 2.5 gigabytes to 10 gigabytes of information per second, around 100 times current Internet speeds, the report said.
Researchers in the United States, Japan and South Korea are also building IPV6 technologies, which are expected to gain "significant global traction" by 2010, it said.
to IPV6 information posted on Microsoft's Web site, IPV6 and IPV4 will be used simultaneously over the coming years as Internet operators and home computers gradually take on the new technology.
IPV6 is expected to be able to handle an infinite number of Internet addresses, offer better security and be more compatible with mobile phones and hand-held computing devices, the Microsoft site said.
Chinese researchers received government approval to research the new protocol in 2003 with the goal of helping domestic companies build competitive hardware for the next-generation Internet, The China Daily said.Internet routers and other equipment for the IPV4 system are now mostly made by American companies like Cisco Systemsand Juniper Networks, the paper said.
Five Chinese telecommunications operators, including China Telecom and China Mobile, are building IPV6 networks, with some expected to begin trial runs by the end of the year. Chinese research institutes and manufacturers are also working to standardize and commercialize IPV6 applications and hardware with the hope of making Chinese technology companies more competitive globally, the paper said.
Lenovo reports overheating
Lenovo Group, the Chinese personal computer maker, said it was investigating a case in which a Sony-battery- powered Lenovo notebook computer overheated this month and began smoking and sparking, Reuters reported from Tokyo.
The malfunction, whose cause is unclear, happened with a Lenovo ThinkPad T43 on Sept. 16 at Los Angeles International Airport, but no one was injured, a Lenovo spokesman in Tokyo said.
Dell and Apple Computer last month together recalled almost six million Sony batteries, saying that they could produce smoke and catch fire. The Lenovo notebook that became overheated was using the same type of Sony battery that was a target of Dell and Apple Computer recalls, the Lenovo spokesman said.
A spokesman for Sony said the company was cooperating with Lenovo in investigating the overheating but added that Sony had not determined that the notebook computer had been equipped with a Sony battery.