新闻

订阅 email
显示 博客 | Google+ | Twitter | 全部 的消息. 使用 RSS 订阅我们的博客。

星期二, 3月 29, 2011

Are you sure that's Skype you're using? How to avoid TOM in China

With over 600 million registered users, Skype is the worlds most popular online voice call service, and has also become the largest international voice carrier. Many people in China use it to keep in contact with friends abroad, as well as for international business calls. Importantly, voice calls as well as chats over Skype use a highly encrypted protocol which makes it difficult or impossible for the government to monitor what we say. In China though, as often is the case, there is a twist. Most Chinese users aren't in fact using Skype, but instead a client made by TOM, Skype's local partner.

 

What is TOM?

To the user, TOM looks very much the real Skype client. Behind the interface though, there are crucial differences. TOM is a company operating in China under Chinese regulations, meaning that all traffic is open to control by the government. Skype has been heavily critized for this cooperation, both in the media and on it's own forum. And here's a clip from NTDTV talking about the differences (in Chinese).

GreatFirewall.biz blocked by, ehem, the Great Firewall

Dear reader. I know something about you. You are either not in the People's Republic of China - or you are using a VPN or proxy to bypass the Great Firewall. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. Since yesterday, this website has been added to the list of websites blocked in China. As you can see to the right, other websites with information about the Great Firewall are blocked too.

Why, oh why?

Chinese people don't need this website to test whether a website is blocked or not - they can simply type in a URL or search and if it's blocked, the connection will be reset or timeout. Or do they? When a website doesn't work, it could be because it's blocked, but it could also be caused by the website itself. How can you tell the difference? You can connect your VPN and try again - or, you can test it on this website. A website is only marked as blocked by us if it 1) works when accessed from the US and 2) does not work when accessed from China.

Take, for example, the current difficulties of accessing Gmail in China. Our monitoring shows that this is caused by the Great Firewall - but the government has denied this and seem to want people to think that the problem lies with Google. Isaac Mao, a Chinese blogger, commented that the government is "testing the tolerance of the people" adding that "they cannot block Gmail totally, at this moment, because millions of people are using Gmail. If it is found that the government did this, people will react even more".

Indeed. So the government is doing what it can to prevent people from finding out.

星期三, 3月 23, 2011

China imposes it's own view on maps

Xinhua is reporting that China has launched a nationwide campaign to eliminate illegal online mapping services, with the country’s mapping bureau calling for the punishment of violators. Does this mean that foreign run map websites will be gradually shut down? We are monitoring the situation, of course. You can keep track of mainland access to various map websites listed to the left.

As our monitoring shows, no map website is currently blocked. Yellow ones symbolize slow access, but that is common among many foreign websites when acccessed in China. However, as has been demonstrated in the past with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc, websites can be closed down at any time.

Why would China close down maps?

Government decisions, be they concerning the GFW (Great Firewall) or otherwise, are always something of a mystery and we can only come up with educated guesses as to the motivation behind. In the case of maps there are several possibilities. There's the general protectionist argument, whereby the government is officially promoting stability while in practice only benefiting local web companies. There's also the special territorial issue - especially the question of Taiwan and whether or not it belongs to China. Google Maps, for example, illustrates China and Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong and Macau, as different countries whereas Baidu 地图 does not (Baidu actually doesn't include any other country than China).

Let us know what you think by participating in our poll below, and check back in the future to see whether any map websites get closed down.

星期二, 3月 22, 2011

Gmail now 45 times slower than QQ, 8 times slower than Yahoo

Many people in China are experiencing problems accessing their Gmail these days. The website hasn't (yet) been blocked outright, in the sense that Facebook.com, Twitter.com etc are blocked. Instead, the Great Firewall and the masters behind it seem to try to make Gmail slow and partially blocked, as our monitoring confirms. Average download speed of Gmail in China is now 45 times slower than QQ as shown in this diagram (for more comparisons, see our new Guanxi index).

Some people are wondering whether the problems are caused by Google or the Great Firewall. Google has denied that the problem lies with their service, adding that "this is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail". Though the Chinese government has protested its innoncence, our automatic monitoring of Gmail confirms Google's view. All our tests are verified by also accessing the website from a server outside China, and Gmail has not had any problems when accessed elsewhere. In China though, it's lately been partially blocked and usually very slow.

星期一, 3月 14, 2011

Will Gmail be permanently blocked in China?

Gmail has been blocked in China from time to time in the recent days. GreatFirewall.biz monitors Gmail access every day. Here are some thoughts on why this is happening.

Why is Gmail access important in China?

Facebook.com, Blogspot.com and Twitter.com are all blocked in China (check out Top Sites). Chinese equivalents Renren, Weibo etc as well as all local email providers are all screened for sensitive keywords. Gmail, together with LinkedIn.com (recently blocked, then unblocked), provide important exceptions to this otherwise compact control of online activity in mainland China. Because connections are encrypted (the address starts with https://) the Great Firewall cannot know what users are writing about. If the authorities don't accept this, they can do two things: 1) Hack individual accounts. They've been accused of doing this on several occasions, eg on Jan, 2010 and March, 2011. 2) Close down the service altogether, an idea which they seem to be playing with now.

页面