Chinese Wikipedia

Full accessibility, dramatic growth reported for Chinese Wikipedia

A month after the rest of Wikipedia was unblocked in mainland China, the Chinese-language version, which had remained partially blocked, now appears to be generally reachable. During this period the Chinese Wikipedia has also experienced significant growth in articles and the number of new users joining the project.

Andrew Lih, who has been tracking the availability of Wikipedia in the aftermath of October's partial unblock (see archived story), reported Friday that over the previous 24 hours, the Chinese Wikipedia was widely accessible in the People's Republic of China again. This included several ISPs that were already allowing access to other Wikipedia languages, such as English, but had been continuing to block the Chinese-language version. (Around the same time as the unblock, Shizhao reported on the Wikimedia Foundation mailing list that the https connection to Wikimedia servers, previously used as one potential circumvention method, had been blocked in China.)

Growth follows unblocking

In a follow-up, Lih noted that the number of new users registering on the Chinese Wikipedia had gone up significantly after the partial unblock on 10 October, with an even bigger spike coming after the full unblock. At the latest rate of increase, Chinese was adding contributors faster than any Wikipedia language but English. Lih called the increase "exciting" but also pointed out that it would test the community's ability to absorb this volume of newcomers.

This spike in interest may have been helped by, and also contributed to, another factor as well. The growth since the partial unblocking helped the Chinese Wikipedia surge past 100,000 articles this past weekend. This makes Chinese the twelfth language for which Wikipedia has passed that milestone.

A sustained increase in participation from the PRC would help the Chinese Wikipedia compensate for the factors that have hindered its growth up till now. Lih indicated that while the block was in place, the mix of contributors to the Chinese Wikipedia was roughly 1/4 from Hong Kong, 1/4 from Taiwan, and the rest from a mixture of locations with Chinese-speaking populations (Singapore, Malaysia, the United States, Canada, and those from the PRC who could circumvent the block). And even in the unblocked areas, country data from Alexa suggests that Wikipedia's popularity has been affected by the block. Wikipedia is currently #45 in web traffic for Hong Kong and #94 in Taiwan, compared to being in the top twenty or even ten for most other countries.

Lih added the tidbit that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was in Beijing over the weekend "extolling the virtues of Wikipedia" in an appearance at the Bookworm Cafe to promote his latest book, The World Is Flat. Influential support like this may have played a role in the unblocking, as Fortune recently reported that a well-connected ally wrote to PRC officials about a week before the initial unblock, helping to convince them of Wikipedia's neutrality.

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