Internet, Law & Policy

NetEase Will Close Its Online Forums Next Month

Chinese Internet portal NetEase says that due to media business development needs, the company's online forums will stop providing services from October 19, 2016.

This is yet another media service closed by NetEase, following its recent community and microblog service closures.

According to the notice on NetEase's forums, the company will provide a "memories packaging" service before its shutdown. With one click, users can pack and download their personal article data and favorites. Once the forum is closed, user data will not be maintained.

Meanwhile, the notice pointed out that in the future, NetEase hopes to continue to provide interactive content services to users via other products, including its news client and follow-up posts.

NetEase forums were established in 1999 and it is one of the earliest forum products in China. The BBS or forum was once a popular social tool during the PC age, but with the rise of mobile apps it no longer gains the attention of Chinese netizens. Early in December 2012, NetEase announced plans to stop the operations of its NetEase community, a derivative of NetEase forum. In 2014, the company closed its microblog service.

The closure may also come on the heels of more government censorship and scrutiny. Forums in China requre real-name registration, and Netease must also employ editors and censors to police the comments made online. The closure of the forums will decrease Netease's costs, though the company has not publicly stated how much it will save.

News also came last week that Netease is planning to either spin-off its news division in a US$300M IPO or look for interested buyers for the operation. Its online news operation has also been weighing down the company on both cost and regulatory sides, as the company hopes to focus more on online games.

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