Facebook targets China, world's biggest Web market

BEIJING Fri Jun 20, 2008 9:25am EDT

A Facebook profile is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Handout

A Facebook profile is seen in a handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Online social network site Facebook.com has launched a version targeting mainland Chinese Web surfers to compete with local and overseas rivals in the world's largest Internet market.

Facebook users in mainland China accessing the website are redirected to zh-cn.facebook.com, which is in the simplified version of Chinese used on the mainland.

A version in traditional Chinese, the script used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, is also available.

A spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Facebook -- an online network which allows users to create personalized pages and link to others -- released French, German and Spanish versions this year. About two-thirds of Facebook's more than 67 million users live outside the United States.

Facebook is playing catch-up to News Corp's MySpace, which established a Chinese-language Web site in April 2007 and has tapped into over 20 countries globally.

The rapid growth and widespread acceptance of the Silicon Valley-based company has created a flurry of Chinese copycats, including Xiaonei.com and Zhanzuo.com. In May, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, hugely popular at home for his visits to quake-hit Sichuan, emerged as the 10th most popular politician on Facebook. China overtook the United States to become the world's biggest Internet market with 221 million Web users by the end of February, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre.

(Reporting by Michael Wei; Editing by Sophie Taylor)

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