As I stay in Shanghai on my 6th day I am staring to get Internet withdraws. It is not that I do not have access to the Internet. I do have access to my online store, my emails, my blog and some of my favorite sites.
Although this is possible the mainland Chinese government has effectively killed my net social life. Access to Facebook, Twitter and all Google feeds for blogs are blocked. For the latter I have to figure out the original site, visit it’s Home page and then locate the story I’m interested in. Yes, VPN is one way to get around the Great Firewall, but I am not that addicted to my net social life to pay for VPN service during my short stay in Shanghai, and the free services like Hotspot Shield is not helping.
For Twitter I use it more for sharing interesting finds on The Net and breaking technology related news. I hope my followers will not give up on me during my short period of hiatus. I guess I can only tell when I returns to Hong Kong.
I had always been a proponent for the use of OAuth, but another side effect from these Internet restrictions is my reliance on OAuth. Three of the providers I use are: Google, Twitter and Facebook, all except for the Google is totally blocked by China Information Bureau (CIB). In future OAuth and particularly XAuth implementations we should take this into consider.
Aside from these restricted accesses I’m also not use to having to first locate WiFi hotspots whenever I want to use the net connection on my iPhone. I had decided to give that up a year ago when I signed up for my first unlimited 3G network access with Smartone-Vodafone (SMV). Unfortunately SMV does not offer a roaming data plan while travelling, so turning my 3G data access on while in Shanghai will be costly.
Being always connected to the Internet is not only for the benefit of my net social life. It is also important for me to keep an eye on the emails relating to my online store, locate where I am in a foreign city, and find transit information. Fortunately, for the latter I had the foresight to purchase the USD0.99 iPhone app Explore Shanghai [iTunes link] before I left HK. This little app made me appear to be an experienced Shanghai subway user. Last night this app was updated to include the new subway (Metro) line (#13), just in time for the opening (May 1st) of World Expo 2010.
I understand China government’s needs to control information dissemination. It is the one of the major way for a communist government to keep control of the country. Although the influx of foreigners in a cosmopolitan city like Shanghai; especially during a world event like The Expo, outside information and opinions will inevitably reach locals even with the heavy control of the CIB.
I hope the publishing of this post will not get my blog block within China as that is definitely not my intentions. I think that every government system in the world has its benefits and we cannot impose our own believes onto other countries. All I am pointing out with this post is that we are no longer living in an information deprived world, although information may not be readily available in certain part of the world, it will eventual arrive to those who seek it. Forcefully prevent the flow of information may not be the most effective way to control its flow.