10 ways the Chinese Internet is different from yours

This slideshow complements the interview with James Fallows, who has experienced "The Great Firewall of China" firsthand. What follows is a list of the differences between the Internet, as seen in the US vs. China.

  • It's safer: Malicious activity -- including phishing scams, bots and zombies -- is less common in China than in the United States. China represented 7 per cent of the Internet's malicious activity, while the United States represented 31 per cent during the second half of 2007. One rationale for the Chinese Internet monitoring system is to keep hackers at bay.

  • There's less porn: The Chinese government justifies its Internet monitoring efforts by telling the public that it is keeping online information "wholesome" and free of threats such as sexual predators. Online pornography is not as pervasive in China, and users are less likely to stumble upon it.

  • There's less spam: China produces 4 per cent of the world's spam, while the United States is the origin for 42 per cent of all unsolicited e-mail. China decreased its spam volume by 131 per cent in the second half of 2007, largely by reducing the number of bot-infested computers.

  • It's slower: Due to congestion on China's backbone networks and the time it takes for communications to travel across undersea cables to the United States and Europe, travelers find a noticeable difference in the responsiveness of the Internet in China compared to the rest of the world.

  • Inside China's Internet Censorship. Source: James Fallows, "The Connection Has Been Reset."

  • It's based on IPv6: The China Next Generation Internet is an IPv6 backbone that the Chinese government is using as a testbed to develop IPv6 services, including distance learning and telemedicine. IPv6 is an upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol that features enough IP addresses for the Chinese population.

  • It's growing faster: The Chinese top-level domain (.cn) had the fastest growth rate on the Internet in 2007. Sales of .cn domain names grew 399 per cent in 2007. In contrast, the most common domains in the US (.com and .net) grew 24 per cent year over year.

  • Access to foreign Web sites is limited: The Chinese government uses four mechanisms -- DNS blocking, reset commands, URL keyword blocking and content scanning -- to prevent Internet users in the country from reaching blacklisted Web sites or content.

  • It's censored: The Chinese government is believed to employ tens of thousands of censors who monitor bloggers and delete offensive or subversive material. These censors require ISPs and other Internet companies to stop posting articles, forums and blogs about controversial subjects.

  • Blackouts are common: If the Chinese government finds that a user has downloaded forbidden content, it breaks the connection and prohibits the user from establishing communications with the site. These blackouts can last anywhere from two minutes to an hour.

  • It's monitored: Chinese authorities monitor all the Internet traffic coming in and out of the country using mirroring routers designed for back-up and disaster recovery operations. These routers are hooked up to computers that scan for forbidden information.

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