The Long Haul of Microsoft’s China Localization

The Long Haul of Microsoft’s China Localization

When LinkedIn began requesting Chinese members’ phone numbers in 2019, it was evident that the professional social network would have to operate under a new set of standards in China. However, it quickly discovered that establishing the real-name verification system demanded by Chinese authorities was not enough; it also had to balance censorship demands with sustaining its “Western principle” of freedom of expression.

Retrenchment was the only option. Microsoft said in October that LinkedIn’s Chinese edition will be discontinued, despite the fact that it still functioned roughly the same as the “global” version, with the exception of additional requirements such as cell number verification. 

Microsoft launched InCareer, a LinkedIn rival, via China’s App Store and third-party Android shops on December 13. The new program focuses on employment, has the LinkedIn look and feel but lacks the social feed and content publishing features, which would need content policing efforts from Microsoft’s Chinese team. The texting tool is still available in InCareer.

LinkedIn stated their decision in a blog post: While we have had some success in assisting Chinese members find employment and economic opportunities, we have not had as much luck with the broader social components of sharing and staying informed. In China, we are also dealing with a far more difficult working climate and stricter compliance standards.

Microsoft is not the only foreign computer behemoth that has withdrawn its services from the Chinese market. China has enacted a spate of new cyber rules in recent years to regulate everything from how much data internet companies may gather to how they transport data across borders. Yahoo, the parent company of TechCrunch, just left China, claiming an “increasingly difficult economic and legal climate.”

Users in China who have the LinkedIn app are now required to download InCareer, albeit they may still use a web browser and VPN to access the full version of the social network. These additional barriers, on the other hand, were designed to push users away from a platform that already had a limited reach in the nation. LinkedIn is largely used by ex-pats and Chinese users who worked for multinationals or cross-border firms, whereas Maimai was more popular in China. According to market research firm iResearch, Maimai accounted for 91 percent of the time Chinese users spent on professional social networking applications in April.

Bing, Microsoft’s other surviving service in China, has struck a snag as well. According to user complaints from, the search engine was offline in China on December 18; however, it looked to be back up on December 20. TechCrunch has contacted Microsoft about the problem. According to a note made by Bing, the occurrence coincided with the search engine provider suspending its search autofill tool in China for 30 days “per PRC legislation.” It is unclear which laws are mentioned on the website.

In 2019, Bing was temporarily unavailable in China as its domestic competitor Baidu’s reputation suffered a setback. It was widely assumed at the time that a mass migration of Baidu users to Bing had caused the American site to crash. After being left alone for years, it is not uncommon to see international IT businesses playing catch-up with Chinese rules, Years after the applicable rule took effect, Apple launched a wave of crackdowns on unauthorized mobile games on its Chinese App Store. 

The Bing suspension might be a similar example, in which the search engine, which had long been off the radar in China due to its low usage, was ultimately compelled to address a loophole – autofill recommendations that could irritate censors.