AOL Testing Chinese Language Portal

While it's not yet ready to officially enter the Chinese market like rivals MSN, Yahoo and Google, AOL has launched a beta test for a Chinese language version of its Web portal. The site is designed to reach the Chinese speaking community in the United States, rather than the growing number of Internet users in China.

The new portal brings together Web search, blogs, e-mail and news from North America, Europe and Asia, AOL says, and will be available in both simplified and traditional Chinese characters. Video content will also be offered, including full-length movies and popular TV episodes from China.

AOL joined forces with ChinaPortal.com to provide most of the site's content, which includes exclusive programming and webcasts of sporting events from China. The company has not indicated whether it plans to reach out to users in China in the future.

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"This launch represents another phase in the evolution of the U.S. AOL.com Web portal and extends our effort to efficiently leverage our Web products, content, communities and services in a context that brings the most value to different segments of our users who share common languages and cultural bonds," AOL.com general manager David Liu said in a statement.

MSN, Yahoo and Google have run into difficulties with their expansions into the Chinese market. The companies have faced government censorship and agreed to block certain content from Web searches and on blogs, much to the ire of many users.

However, MSN has said it believes it is important to offer services in restrictive markets rather than skip these areas altogether. Microsoft recently established a policy regarding content removal for its Spaces blogging service, but did not clarify its censorship stance on MSN Search.

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