Hong Kong, along with much of Asia (with the exception of China), is still playing catch-up with Web 2.0 in 2007. This is due to lack of initiatives by companies and lack of knowledge and interest from the market. It was only late 2006 that we began to see more Web 2.0 information being fed to the public; at that time we also noticed an increase in the number of startups being formed in Hong Kong and releasing services to the public.
Overview of Web 2.0 in Hong Kong
Although many are still new to Web 2.0, Hong Kong is a market that follows the trends. So the people here are familiar with popular services from recognized companies in the US and are likely to adopt those services. In fact, they are less likely to use those from China, including local services, and even more unlikely to create their own Hong Kong services. As such, websites like Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Google, Yahoo, and others with brand recognition, are popular here.
In terms of innovation, aside from the lack of interest, creativity and the 'why build when there are services already available' attitude that many people have, the lack of availability of online resources and localized APIs (e.g. some APIs may only pertain to the US market) are some of the issues that are hindering the development in the local Hong Kong market. The popular mapping mashups with Yahoo! and Google Maps, and other types of mashups, are basically non-existent here. This is very different from China, because we are also less likely to find any clones in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Startups
In the past year or so, there have been a number of startups that have been formed and pushed their services out to the market. As of this writing, there are a handful of startups based in and operating from Hong Kong. There are a few startups that have registered their startups in Hong Kong, but have ventured into mainland China to utilize their workforce and test the waters in China. Even though Hong Kong is part of China, startups from Hong Kong have as much difficulty competing with China as any foreign companies trying to take a piece of the China market.
- EditGrid: Online spreadsheet (profile)
- aNobii: Book lovers social network (review)
- Bullpoo: Interactive stock community and a personalized investment tool (profile)
- Recruit.net: Vertical search engine for jobs in Asia
- Zorpia: Social network
- Frenzoo: Virtual social network (interview and screenshots)
- Lifesterblog: Blog community (profile)
- Wazhua: China entertainment virtual world and social network (profile)
- Roompage: Personalized homepages (profile)
- Jijija: Matching community through discussions (profile)
- China-8.com: Education community - Chinese language
- Moochi.com: Video-sharing site with online video-editing
Just as Hong Kong users adopt services from the US, the majority of the startups here build their ideas to serve foreign markets - and so they largely ignore the local market. Having heard from some of the individuals behind Hong Kong companies, there is a consensus that the Hong Kong market is just too small and the general public still lack interest and knowledge in fully utilizing web technologies.
The majority of the startups here, like many others around the world, bootstrap anyway they can to get started. Some continue to bootstrap as they ramp up, while others seek out funding. The funding here rarely comes from local or even foreign VC firms, but rather from the Hong Kong Government. The HKSARG offers several schemes to assist web startups, or indeed any startups, including allocating funds and office space to get projects started.
The Big Companies
It seems there aren't any initiatives by big companies (like Yahoo! Hong Kong, Google and others) to push web 2.0 services to the public. Providing localized versions of their existing global services is usually the path those companies take, instead of developing their own services for the local market.
Yahoo! Hong Kong is the number one destination for Hong Kong people (according to Alexa), but they haven't been very proactive in providing Web 2.0 services. Localized versions of their popular services include Answers (aka Yahoo Knowledge) and Maps (which does not understand Hong Kong addresses). Other services like Travel and Real Estate are localized versions of the Yahoo! US site equivalents. In addition to the popular Yahoo! Blogs, the Hong Kong office has a web service called Hui Bin Doe - which allow users to rate, review and recommend restaurants, food and stores. However, detailed restaurant articles are still done by a selected source instead of allowing the users to fully contribute.
Google - Similar to Yahoo! HK, Google has only provided localized versions of their popular services - e.g. Docs, Notebook, Blogger.
PCCW - The local Telecom giant has just jumped into the Web 2.0 waters by providing a Flickr-like photo and video sharing service, called Snaap!. However it's only available for their service subscribers.
This post is part of Read/WriteWeb's continuing coverage of international Web markets. Other countries profiled so far have been Germany, Holland, Poland, Korea, United Kingdom, Russia, Spain, China, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, France, Japan, India, Austria, Sweden, Australia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Latvia and Ireland.