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胡泳  

胡泳,北京大学新闻与传播学院副教授,博士。价值中国网(www.chinavalue.net)总编辑。中国传播学会常务理事。著有《网络为王》、《众声喧哗》等,译有《数字化生存》、《未来是湿的》等。

北京大学新闻与传播学院副教授,博士。价值中国网(www.chinavalue.net)总编辑。中国传播学会常务理事。著有《网络为王》、《众声喧哗》等,译有《数字化生存》、《未来是湿的》等。

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hu yong: bbs sites on china’s changing web   

2010-06-05 17:48:40|  分类: expect |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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http://cmp.hku.hk/2010/06/01/6158/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Hu Yong: BBS sites on China’schanging web

 

Posted on 2010-06-01

For quite some timenow, bulletin-board sites (BBS) have been a favorite destination of Chineseinternet users. BBS sites and forums in China are essentially social spacesbuilt on discussion, and there you can discuss entertainment, relationships,sports, politics, technology and other topics. The wide-reaching interest inthese social communities has become one phenomenon distinguishing China’sinternet from the web in other markets.

Sage Brennan, an analyst ofChina’s new media market has said: “Given the fashionability of blogs andonline gaming, people have found it easy to neglect the fact that BBS networksare the true center of activity on China’s internet. For a number of reasons,BBS networks have developed steadily, and they are increasingly vibrant.Internet companies, university campuses and even individuals have set up BBScommunities.”

China’s most famousonline forum in the beginning was “Shuimu Tsinghua,” which was set up in 1995[at Tsinghua University] and was representative of the cyberculture on China’suniversity campuses. In general society, the BBS was best represented by thesports-related forum SRSNET (四通利方), which in November 1997 became famousfor a post called, “No Tears in Dalian’s Jinzhou,” [which offered a subtle andcaring description of an embarrassing soccer defeat for China and the affect ithad on Chinese fans].

From 1998 to 2000, “XiCi Hu Tong” (西祠胡同), Tianya Forum (天涯社区), the Strong Nation Forum (强国论坛) [at People's Daily Online]and “KDnet” (凯迪网络) were born, attracting web users withtheir unique community forums. As they pieced together massive audiences,online forums developed rapidly. They opened up a simple environment forinteraction and exchange, particularly suited to the sharing and discussion ofpublic affairs.

When weblogs emergedas the popular new medium, they attracted more and more internet users. But asblogs dealing with political affairs were few and far between, and blogs wererelatively poor in terms of interactivity, online forums were still whereinternet users interested in reading about and commenting on current affairstended to congregate.

With the advent ofmicroblog, internet user interest in blogs and online forums has furtherdifferentiated. The reason lies not just in a shortage of readers. Somebloggers have discovered they simply can’t be in two places at once. Too manythings are going on in their lives, and they don’t have time to kick aroundonline forums and maintain their blogs. Other users have migrated toeasier social media. And of course there are also a few who cannot stand thecheap shots or loss of privacy and have left the world of blogs and onlineforums altogether.

Despite theabove-mentioned differentiation, reports from the China Internet NetworkInformation Center (CNNIC) indicate that the audience for online forumscontinues to expand each year. While the vitality of online forums has beenchallenged by blogs, microblogs and other Web 2.0 services, this online mediaso beloved by Chinese web users still has profound support and long-termdevelopment prospects, and has an important and unique position in Chineseonline ecology.

Strictly speaking,online forums lie somewhere between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, and they have anirreplaceable role on the internet with Chinese characteristics. Tianya, MOP,KDnet, Tiexue and other sites work on a “forum + editor” model, while theStrong Nation Forum, Sina Forum, Sohu Forum, Phoenix Forum, Baidu Post andother such sites are important components of larger news portals. All have madesubstantial contributions to China’s online public sphere, and they are oftenthe places where sudden-breaking news stories unfold, where public opinion issourced, where corrupt behavior is exposed, and where various social groupsinteract.

There are manyexamples in recent years of the way online forums have encouraged socialdevelopment and prompted more open political behavior. Without the role ofonline forums, for example, the South ChinaTiger Affair might not have ended in the way it did.

In a global context,regardless of how online forums develop in the future, we can be sure that theywill not draw attention in the same way they have in the past. This is becauseWeb 2.0 has irrevocably changed the nature of the internet. Online forums undergonea process of development from small gathering places frequented by die-hards tomass public spaces.

In the old days,people using their precious computers (computers were luxury items) had toconnect their modems, access their terminal software and enter in their BBScodes just to access BBS sites. It was a clumsy and difficult process. Today,internet developments have ushered all of this into the past. Browsers and RSSreaders can now take us just about anywhere. The only thing that hasn’t changedis our desire as users to interact. Popular websites in recent years, includingMySpace and Facebook, have all shown us just how eager people are to keep incontact with others. These new channels all have advantages that online forumsdo not have.

Therefore, in myview, online forums in the future will become mixtures — permitting those witha sense of kinship or affinity to building their own “online corners,” and alsoallowing popular mass discussion verging on real-time. The heyday of the onlineforum has already passed, but they have not entirely vanished. In order tosurvive, online forums must in the future be equipped with the followingcharacteristics: general ease of use; a more friendly user interface,permitting real-time use of chat and gaming services; information notnecessarily stored on a central server, but rather on a dispersed network thatis always online.

It is not easy togaze into a crystal ball and look at the future of the online forum, but thismuch is certain — the future of online forums lies in increased real-timeinteraction among users. BBS sites must learn from microblogs and socialnetwork services, otherwise they risk becoming a cottage industry, theirinfluence gradually waning over time.

In many ways, thehistory of online forums is the history of China’s internet. In today’scacophony of voices, with blogs, microblogs and social networks, online forumsstill have their own special beauty. We look forward to their next decade.

A Chinese version of this articles appeared in today’sedition of Southern Metropolis Daily.

 


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