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April 02, 2007


Hamish MacEwan

"If there is too little (which has been China's problem) everybody steals everything and there is no incentive for creation."

This seems a little extreme. The wording "too little" is itself a little judgemental, and perhaps would be better phrased, "if there is less."

What would happen? Certainly not "everyone" doing the same thing, humans don't work that way. Perhaps the majority would free-ride (steal seems inappropriate where the victim of "theft" retains the property, but not the property of exclusivity), but then the support would come from those who voluntarily respect the creator or notion of IP. Does IP protection have to be coercive? And what kind of material would receive support in a voluntary world? Perhaps the economic driver toward the mass market big hit provides incentives that are not beneficial.


I just got EMI's DRM-free message, http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/emi_music_drm_free.php

If legislation is still blind to the big trend of "fair use". The law itself will become a useless paper. Seems HK is in this myth.

Tom - Daai Tou Laam

One of the major Chinese linux distributions (Sun Wah's Rays) is based out of Hong Kong. (the parent company is out of Nanjing, but the linux distribution is based out of Hong Kong).

see also the HK LUG.

Hong Kong might not compare to Japan in open source development, but to say "Hong Kong does not have an open source geek community to speak of" is just plain wrong.

Angus Lau

It's true that there is so little Web 2.0 innovation going on here in HK, but I am tracking the handful of individuals here making things happen.

Most HK locals are living a brand culture. They are after the name recognition and yes, the salary that comes with it, so you get these individuals who rather have a job, any kind of job, at a Fortune 500 company than risk it on their own or with friends/partners.


I think it has something to do with demographics. Hong Kong only has 7 million people and many of them are likely to live elsewhere for a good chunk of their lives, ie they are not from HK but are just visiting or are native to HK but will live abroad. Taiwan has 23 million people and the population is much more fixed, stable. I imagine that being small and very much in flux would reduce a place's potential for nurturing a supportive and vibrant geek community, open source or otherwise.


I'm not sure about your three reasons. I book ads on HK websites weekly, and it's true - I find it very hard to find sites with large enough amounts of traffic to justify the ad spend. There is a dearth of HK-based sites. But I simply don't think it can be based on HK companies not using Creative Commons.

The lack of web innovation I think has more to do with the lack of traffic. Basically yahoo.com.hk sucks up a HUGE amount of HK's web traffic. Then the web 2.0 type of sites that HK's population needs are already built - all of the social services, the photo sharing, the travel sites - they are all built, and there is a large amount of HK's population that speak and read English very well and don't need Chinese language alternatives.

The lack of innovation I think comes from the lack of available traffic to generate the ad revenue.

Rebecca MacKinnon

Thanks Tom for the correction and Adrian and Alex for pointing out these other important factors for lack of innovation.

Angus, I'll definitely have to start following your site more closely.

Angus Lau

Rebecca, sure thing! I'll keep doing my best to locate the web innovation here. If you get the chance, let's meet up some time!


I recently spent some time in Hong Kong, and I think there are some other important reasons why Hong Kong is not a center for web technologies. I think there is some similarity to New York (my permanent base), which is also limited in this respect when compared to the west coast (yes, we have some tech, but less than we should). Both places are dominated by the financial industry (as well as traditional media), and this somehow seems to impede cutting edge technology companies.

My own perspective is more lower level technology than higher-level media. Both NY and HK have a strong academic foundation in tech (HKU, HKUST, CUHK in particular) but technology is too often cast in a supporting role for the financial and other industries than as a driver on its own. Similar in NY, where most of my students will take well-paying jobs on wall street rather than work for a tech-oriented startup.


I think Hong Kong will soon change as it is absorbed into mainland culture.

In the past, Hong Kong has been stiffled. Take for example the period during the British colonization of Hong Kong.

When the British were colonizing Hong Kong, there were virtually no pro-democracy movement or self determination movement in Hong Kong.

When the students at Tiananmen were protesting in 1989 for more freedom in Mainland, the people in Hong Kong just stood by giving support to the students, but not looking at themselves in the mirror. No one in Hong Kong was seeking independence of Hong Kong from Britain or freedom from Britain like those mainlanders.

Today, as Hong Kong is returned to Mainland China, we are seeing an increase in pro-democracy movement which is more like mainland china. So I think Hong Kong will change soon.

Perhaps, 150 years of colonization has led Hong Kongers to believe that their destiny is controlled by "others" oceans away so there is no need to pursue much, other than getting a monthly salary and paying bills.

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