Professional networking service LinkedIn has launched a beta or test version of its Chinese language site.The firm said the move was aimed at offering a more localised service to its users in China.
It is expected to boost LinkedIn’s growth in China – where rival social networking firms such as Facebook and Twitter continue to remain blocked.
China is the world’s largest internet market with more than 500 million internet users.
LinkedIn said it was also creating a joint venture with Sequoia China and China Broadband Capital to “help connect more than 140 million Chinese professionals with each other and with our more than 277 million existing members globally”.
“Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals and create greater economic opportunity – and this is a significant step towards achieving that goal,” the firm said in a blogpost.
Social media platforms have become increasing popular with Chinese internet users keen to voice their opinions and share unfiltered information.
That has resulted in increased scrutiny and censorship by authorities.
LinkedIn’s chief executive Jeff Weiner acknowledged that “as a condition for operating in the country, the government of China imposes censorship requirements on internet platforms”.
He added that expanding the firm’s presence in China had raised difficult questions for the firm, not least because of these restrictions.
“LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship.
“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,” he said.
The firm said it had decided to implement the following guidelines to address censorship concerns:
- Government restrictions on content will be implemented only when and to the extent required
- It will be transparent about how it conducts business in China and will use multiple avenues to notify members about its practices
- It will undertake extensive measures to protect the rights and data of members
While the firm did not specify what restrictions it would implement, some reports indicated that it had dropped the group discussion feature from the Chinese language site to avoid censorship issues.
LinkedIn’s English language site has been available in China for over a decade. It already has four million users in the country.
LinkedIn said the Chinese language site would incorporate features aimed at helping local users drive more value from the service.
It has integrated Sina Weibo, China’s largest Twitter-like service, into the platform that would allow members to import their Weibo contacts to their LinkedIn profile.
Members would also be allowed to link their LinkedIn account to their WeChat account, one of China’s most popular mobile messaging services.
LinkedIn said that despite being present in the country for such a long period it was still in a “start-up phase” in China.
“We believe that the experience of our local team, combined with the considerable market expertise of our joint venture partners, position us well to explore our growth options in China,” it said.