A few days earlier, one of my friends told me that he’d like to hear my observations and thoughts about Internet development status in Taiwan. He said to me, “being a student who is studying in Beijing but has exchanged a semester at Taiwan, you must acquired many different views from those Mainland tourists to Taiwan! Why not writing them down?” I find his suggestions meaningful, and that is why I begin writing this article.
When I first came to Taiwan as a exchange student, I found words between the two sides in a lot discrepancies. Although people in Taiwan and Mainland China both speak Mandarin Chinese, some phrases are quite different, just in the similar way words and spellings are different in American English and British English. For instance, as for IT-related terminologies, even the basic words we hear and use everyday — such as Internet, Software&Hardware, Hard Drive, Flash Disk, Mobile, Digital, Silicon Valley, Program, Blog— are completely different. Another example is the school departments I took courses — such as the Information Management Department and Computer Department — They are not similar at all either in word usage. It took me quite a long time at first to adapt to the languages.
It is not hard for us to find out the underlying reasons why language differences are extremely intense in IT terminologies. The first computer was announced in 1946, however only three years later in 1949, Taiwan split politically from Mainland China. The lack of communication caused by cold war apparently resulted in those difference we see and hear today.
The first day I came to Taiwan, I brought a prepaid mobile phone card at Kaohsiung Airport. It was really exciting get a unlimited 4G Internet Data Plan with a rather cheap price, because the 3G/4G Plan in Mainland is rather expensive. At Taiwan, most people use Android Phones, but in Mainland China, iPhones are gaining a lot more popularity. The most common Android Phone types at Taiwan are Samsung, Sony, HTC, based on my personal observations. To my surprise, the Chinese smartphone maker, Xiaomi, is also popular in Taiwan.
When I began interacting with more Taiwan students after class, I found their popular App for instant messages and communication is LINE, compared with WeChat in Mainland China. However, they did not understand WeChat at first because we usually called WeChat WeiXin. WeChat is popular in Taiwan. A lot of our Taiwan friends use WeChat to send message to Chinese friends or simply send a LIKE in the WeChat Friend Circles. I had once read a Magazine called Digital Age, a popular technology media publication in Taiwan. In one volume, it took great spaces to introduce WeChat, which left so much impressions on me.
The most commonly social network at Taiwan is undoubtedly Facebook. However we all know that Facebook is inaccessible at Mainland China. Previously we use renren.com for social networks. At present we are using Wechat. Posted posts on Facebook is just the same as posting pictures and status on Moments on WeChat Friend Circles). I think one difference is that Taiwan students are more active at sending LIKE. My Taiwan friends with a thousand friends can acquire 500 Likes for a simple photo, which is rather incredible to us on WeChat!
When my exchange life came to an end, and when our exchange students were preparing back to China, some students posted on their Facebook saying that they feared never logging into Facebook again. However, ironically, even for those who never know how to climb the Wall before, they quickly learn how to use the VPN tools to keep in touch via those blocked sites. Sometimes we even exchange suggestions on how to climb it faster. That is a good thing because blocking is terrible, but what’s worse is being totally unaware of what blocking is. I realised more deeply how free Internet luxurious to us for being exposed to biased contents after my exchange experiences.
When I browsed some Taiwan local websites and used some Apps, I found the front-end and UX design rather ugly here.(No affense:)) The pages were thick with words and pictures, with popular trends such as material design rarely seen. Even the server sometimes encountered crashes. The Electronic Business, such as Yahoo! Specials, PCHOME, is rather less convenient compared with Taobao in Mainland China, and the group buying website such as GROUPEN is also less convenient compared with Meituan.com and DaZhongDianPing in China. Moreover, the Electronic payment industry in Taiwan is not developed well, either. Compared with the vitality in Chinese Internet Industry, it seems to me that the industry in Taiwan is just getting old and out of vigour, and the only advantage is Taiwan’s openness for accessing to all websites and Apps. So how to judge which one I prefer? Convenient or openness? It is rather a hard question to answer.