Why Twitter's IPO Success Might Depend On Countries Like China


If you are banking on the success of Twitter with this week’s IPO, you might be more invested in foreign countries’ tolerance of dissent than you are aware of.

Since the time that Twitter has been an active force on the internet, the mini-blogging service has faced down several attacks and blockages by foreign governments that might be indicative of problems to come.

For instance, after the controversial 2009 elections the Iranian government blocked the site to help curb its power to organize. And during the height of the Arab Spring, Egyptians were unable to access the site. Even England threatened to block the site in the midst of widespread riots in low income neighborhoods in several cities in 2011, though no action was ever taken.

But all that pales in comparison to the steps taken by China, the most populous nation in the world.

In China, the website is officially banned, though a recent study released by GlobalWebIndex shows that an astounding 19% of Chinese internet users still found ways to tweet last month. That makes China’s estimated 85 million active Twitter users the most in the world, ironic because it the only well-connected country that has an outright ban on the site.

Following China in terms of total Twitter users is the US, followed by India, Brazil, Japan, Russia, and Indonesia, according to the ind

But when you look at the percentage of internet users who are also active Twitter users, parts of the developing world are fertile ground for Twitter to take off.

Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are tied with 41% of the internet-connected population having tweeted in the last month, followed by the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, and Thailand. Compare that to the United States, where only 22% of internet users have used Twitter in the last month.

Many of the countries included on the list have undergone recent social and political unrest, with Twitter users playing active role. As the governments of Iran and Egypt will attest to, Twitter has been the tool of choice to organize protests and revolutions around the globe.

The willingness of these governments to let the company do its thing will greatly affect how it performs in the market.

Which brings us back to China. Following news that Twitter closed its first day on the New York Stock Exchange with a 73% climb from its IPO price tag, bloggers from the country commented on the irony that one of the internet’s hottest company is blocked in the country with the most internet users.

“A website that we can’t even open is now worth US$24 billion? It’s a crazy world we are living in,” wrote one Chinese blogger.

At the moment, Twitter seems to be doing pretty well without the most populous country in the world, but you have to wonder what market implications it might have if other authoritative countries follow China’s lead and enact bans on their own.

Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.

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