By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO Feb 24 Professional social
networking website LinkedIn Corp launched a Chinese
language version of its website on Monday, a move that could
jumpstart its expansion into the world's largest Internet market
by users even as the company acknowledged it will have to police
what some of them say on its website.
LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner acknowledged in a blog
post on Monday that the company would have to censor some of the
content that users post on its website in order to comply with
But Weiner said the benefits of providing its online service
to people in China outweighed those concerns. He vowed that the
company would be "transparent" about its practices as it builds
its presence in a country it said is home to one in five of the
"knowledge workers" that are LinkedIn's core audience.
Shares of LinkedIn were roughly flat in after-hours trading
on Monday at $199.49. The stock is down roughly 23 percent from
its 52 week-high of $257.56 as investors fret about two
consecutive quarters of declines in its page views.
"Extending our service in China raises difficult questions,
but it is clear to us that the decision to proceed is the right
one," Weiner said.
Foreign Internet companies face difficulties operating in
China. Beijing censors sensitive terms from the Internet and
blocks social networks Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc
, a widespread effort that analysts say is geared
towards maintaining the Communist Party's hold on power and
preserving social stability.
LinkedIn's arguments about trade-offs for the greater good
are reminiscent of Google's justification for its controversial
2006 decision to launch a self-censored version of its search
service in China.
Four years later, Google reversed course and relocated its
search engine to Hong Kong from mainland China, following a
dispute with the Chinese government over what Google said was
increasingly onerous censorship and cyber-attacks it said
originated in China.
The Chinese language website that will be available on
Monday is a "beta," or test, version of the site. LinkedIn is
still in the process of getting a license to operate the Chinese
language site, which will require that the company maintain
server computers in China that will store data about its Chinese
users, according to a source familiar with the matter.
LinkedIn already has more than 4 million users in China who
use its English language website, but the company has signaled
that it is interested in making a broader expansion in the
Weiner said the Chinese language site would help LinkedIn
reach 140 million professionals in China, providing the
potential for the company to significantly expand its current
audience of 277 million members.
The company's expansion into China comes as LinkedIn is
trying to transform itself from a social network used primarily
by job seekers and by recruiters into a more full-fledged online
hub for professional workers.
LinkedIn has recently begun encouraging its members to write
career-related articles and post them on the website, a move the
company hopes will boost the amount of time users spend on its
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," Weiner
"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 realize the
economic opportunities, dreams and rights most important to
them," he said.