A new Land of Opportunities for your business

Chinese Flag with Jolly Jack impressed, waving (artwork derived from PD images)A new business opportunity opened for you in China, and you were ready to jump.
You thought about everything, from marketing to regulations compliance; you organized your sales structure for the Chinese market, adjusted your prices, targeted your offer. Your investors trust your idea and funded you happily.

Then you set up a shiny web site in Chinese, completely tuned for Chinese culture. Usability, responsiveness, communication, everything was prepared with care.

And then you advertised it heavily with all possible channel: PPC, SEM, SEO...
Since launch date visits flow in, and you think you are going to be rewarded for all you effort.

But something goes wrong

An then you check your preferred Web Analytics Tools and...

  • ...your Bounce-Rate is way too high!
  • ...your Conversion-Rate is way too low!
  • ...and after a while the stream of visits decreases much more than expected!

Wait a minute... does you web site support IE6?

No? Well... turns out that in China there still is a large percentage of computers running Internet Explorer 6... a pretty large slice indeed.

 IE6 usage in China, July 2012 

If you don't care about IE6 users, rest assured their browsing experience will result in leaving your site straight away. If they amount a large percentage of your visitors, expect your site Bounce Rate to be too high.

How to test with IE6 if you have Windows 7

On Windows 7 you probably have a modern version of IE, 8 or 9 maybe, which thanks to the developer toolbar makes testing for IE7 or 8 easy as changing the browser mode.
But how to test for IE6?
Don't worry, there's no need to find that old licensed copy of Win2000, or buy and MSDE license:
within your current Windows 7 machine you can run for free a Window XP virtual machine with IE6
Check the Windows XP mode feature.

Why is IE6 still so common in China, when everywhere else is nil?

IE6 shipped with Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server; the subsequent OS from MS tightened their security checks against software piracy, which is still very high in China, even among business and PA users.

As you can see, the dominant operating system is still Windows XP:

 OS share market in China, July 2012 (courtesy of StatCounter.com) 

Almost all those boxes run IE6 and keep Windows Update turned off, because they are unlicensed (pirate) copies.

Good news for your Chinese web site, Bad news for someone else

Until one year ago ignoring IE6 in China would have been fatal; today there are good news: IE6 usage is dropping really fast, because...

  • Piracy coming to an end thanks to government action?
  • Open source advancing?
  • A new wave of respect for copyright and trademark?

...well, not really.
There is a new player in the browser war in China. See the chart below:

 Browsers share market in China, July 2012 (courtesy of StatCounter.com) 

Did you notice the steep raising trend of a new browser, “360 Safe Browser”?

What is 360 Safe Browser?

360 Safe Browser (formerly "360 Secure Browser") is a Chinese browser, first released in September 2008 by Qihoo, an local antivirus producer.

Its logo looks like the Internet Explorer one, it uses MS Internet Explorer rendering engine... but Microsoft is probably not earning a dime from its success!

Here is what happened:
with all those pirate copies of Windows up there, with no Windows Update enabled, viruses and malwares had a great time, and there were too many web sites around the world that did not render properly when seen with the most used web browser.
Qihoo spotted a great business opportunity and didn't miss it.
Its supposedly unfair tactics raised many critics among observers and competitors.

Conclusions and Takeaways

  • Before sailing in dangerous waters, do proper research first
  • China market is a sea with little regulations and many sharks

and rest assured, IE6 will die soon.

By the way, did you check how your web site renders with IE6?

Related articles:
Why the IE7 tax is just a link bait