Professional networking service LinkedIn has launched a test version of its Chinese language site as it looks to offer a more localised service to its users in the country.
California-headquartered LinkedIn, the only main US social network with a presence in China, will launch the site in simplified Chinese – the written characters used on the mainland.
China is the world’s largest internet market and LinkedIn has made significant inroads in the country, already boasting more than four million users in China who use its English language site.
Chinese internet stats:
- China has the largest internet population with 591 million users
- The country has 460 million mobile internet users
- Mobile devices (74.5%), desktops (70.6%) and notebooks (45.9%) are the three most popular web entry points
But this move to offer translated content on a China-specific site is part of a broader and more significant expansion in the country.
Indeed, some observers have seen LinkedIn’s move as a way for it to make friends with Chinese censors. LinkedIn rivals Facebook, Google and Twitter, for example, are all generally blocked by the country’s government which has a habit of rejecting content it doesn’t like.
Native language ‘crucial’
The social network feels offering localised, native content will help it broaden its reach in China and hopes to attract 140 million Chinese professionals.
“We know many professionals in China and other parts of the world prefer to communicate in their native language, particularly in a business context, and so we are excited to introduce a beta version of LinkedIn in Simplified Chinese,” Derek Shen, LinkedIn’s president of China, wrote in a blog post.
“This will make our services localised to more members in China, so they too can leverage LinkedIn to further enhance their economic circumstances. Simplified Chinese is now one of the 22 languages we are proud to support around the world.”
The firm added that the Chinese language site would incorporate features designed to help local users get more value from the service.
It has integrated Weibo, a Twitter-esque service very popular in China, into the platform so members can import their contacts from there to their LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn members with WeChat accounts – a mobile messaging service – can also link up.
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner admitted that expanding in China raised “difficult questions” because it would be required to censor content as a condition for operating in the country.
But Weiner said that China’s restrictions on content would be implemented “only when and to the extent required”.
“LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship,” he said.
“At the same time, we also believe that LinkedIn’s absence in China would deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others on our global platform, thereby limiting the ability of individual Chinese citizens to pursue and realise the economic opportunities, dreams and rights most important to them,” he said.
- 277 million users in more than 200 countries
- US (93 million members), Brazil (16 million) and UK (13 million) are its top three markets
- In the fourth quarter of 2013, mobile accounted for 41 percent of unique visiting members to LinkedIn