SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc. said on Friday it plans to launch a Chinese language version of its popular photo-sharing site Flickr.com this year to tap demand from Chinese digital photo enthusiasts.
The development comes as Sunnyvale, California-headquartered Yahoo tries to localize and expand its services — such as bookmark-sharing site Del.icio.us, Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Groups — that center on user-generated contributions.
“The HK traditional Chinese interface of Flickr will be available later this year,” a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman said in an email to Reuters.
Online services, such as Flickr, Shutterfly Inc., Eastman Kodak’s EasyShare Gallery and Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Snapfish, lets users load digital pictures online, where they can be edited, shared with others, printed and mailed.
The new Web site will target Hong Kong users and will offer all the core features currently available on the English platform, spokeswoman Pauline Wong said, without elaborating.
While the traditional version of written Chinese is widely used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the simplified version of the script is the standard in mainland China. However, most mainland Chinese are able to read traditional Chinese, and vice versa.
After targeting Hong Kong consumers, Flickr’s Chinese site will also focus on the Taiwan market, the spokeswoman said, but declined to elaborate on the mainland Chinese market.
Yahoo’s China business was absorbed by the country’s leading e-commerce company, Alibaba, in 2005. Yahoo Inc. also bought a 40 percent stake in Alibaba.
And while Beijing routinely censors online information it deems politically sensitive, Flickr — which has reportedly been blocked in United Arab Emirates — remains accessible in China, the world’s second-largest Internet market after the United States, with around 137 million Web users.
In 2006, Yahoo China had a 9 percent share of China’s online photo-sharing market, according to consultancy iResearch.
Netease.com Inc. took the largest share with 43.4 percent followed by QQ.com with a 33.9 percent share, though other media companies such as Sina Corp. are fast catching up, iResearch said in a report.
China will have around 10 million new users of online photo-sharing services annually over the next few years. Most photo-sharing Web sites are still free of charge as they explore different profit avenues.
Flickr said in a posting on its Web log (here) last month that it was looking to hire translators from among its members to develop non-English language versions of the service.