Google's free weblog service, Blogger, is once again accessible from Beijing without the use of a proxy server, indicating that apparent government efforts to block the site have been lifted.
Access to Blogger was restored yesterday. The site has largely been inaccessible from China since late 2002, when government censors apparently blocked access to Google's search engine and other sites. Last year, Blogger was accessible during a three-month period that stretched from mid-October until December, when the service once again became inaccessible.
Chinese officials rarely discuss their internet censorship efforts. The lack of disclosure sometimes makes it difficult to determine when a site is being blocked or is not accessible for technical reasons. However, in cases such as Blogger, where a site is inaccessible for long periods of time, the culprit is usually government intervention.
The lack of access to Blogger has not affected the growing popularity of blogs in China. Of China's 123 million internet users, 24 percent report reading blogs "frequently", according to a recent study by the China Internet Network Information Centre, which tracks internet usage habits.
Today, there are dozens of Chinese websites that offer blog services in addition to US-based services, such as Microsoft's MSN Spaces and Six Apart's TypePad services, which can be accessed in China.