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'World of Warcraft' Collides With World Politics

'World of Warcraft' Collides With World Politics

Today in international tech news: Trade sanctions have prevented Iranians from playing the ever-popular computer game "World of Warcraft." Also: Australia grapples with data collection laws that one official likened to a police state; Chinese search engines juke results to stymie one another; VMware tries to tap into China's IT-heavy Five Year Plan.

World of Warcraft, the hugely popular online computer game, has been blocked in Iran because of the United States' economic sanctions against the country, according to The Telegraph.

Iranian fans of the game reportedly littered message boards with complaints about how they couldn't access the game. Blizzard Activision, the company responsible for the game, responded that it wasn't because of a glitch -- it was a trade restriction.

"World of Warcraft," which uses a fantasy world with its own "economy" and "culture," has more than 9 million users worldwide. A Blizzard spokesperson said that Iran accounts for only a fraction of the worldwide customer base, according to the article.

Economic pressure on Iran has increased in recent months as the country moves forward with its nuclear program.

Australia Mulls Controversial Data Tracking

The privacy commissioner of the Australian state of Victoria slammed the government's data collection and storage proposal, according to The Age.

The commissioner, Anthony Bendall, said that the proposals are "characteristic of a police state" and would intrude on innocent citizens' lives, according to the report.

Proposed legislative changes would allow authorities to access people's computers and to install surveillance devices. There is also concern that telecommunications companies could be asked to store and divulge customer data, which one Internet service provider said could make them "agents of the state."

A joint submission from groups representing Australia's telecommunications industry said that it would cost at least AU$500 million (US$518 million) to store data for two years, as proposed.

Proponents of the tougher regulations point out that the current "telecommunications intercept laws" were drafted in 1979 and are woefully hapless today.

Search Engine Tiff in China

Chinese search engines Baidu and Qihoo 360 are engaged in a modern-day tit for tat.

The two search engines have been in a running battle to stymie the other ever since Qihoo 360 launched a few weeks ago, according to a post from Tech In Asia.

The most recent moves: Baidu, China's biggest search engine, has gamed it so that clicking on any Baidu product in a Qihoo 360 search automatically directs the user to Baidu's homepage. A Western equivalent would be something like Google directing users to Google.com after the users conducted a Bing.com search for Google Maps.

Qihoo, however, fired back: When users clicks on Baidu products via Qihoo 360, they are directed to a cached version of the page.

It's part of a swelling list of "tech wars" in China. From e-commerce sites to browsers, a slew of companies are trying to stake out ground on the Chinese Web, resulting in spats such as this.

VMware Taps Into China's Five-Year Plan

VMware, a company specializing in virtualization and cloud computing technology, has been part of China's quest to develop its IT sector, according to ZDNet.

China emphasized IT growth in general and cloud computing in particular in its 12th Five-Year Plan, which runs from 2011 to 2015.

China spent $286 million on cloud computing infrastructure in 2011, according to ZDNet, and is expected to spend more than $1 billion by 2016.

ZDNet did not discuss how big of a slice VMware had gotten. But the potential earnings were apparently enough to prompt VMware to tailor its strategy for China.

VMware set out to be "as Chinese as possible," according to ZDNet, which spoke with a VMware executive about the company's Chinese operations. The company does not have expatriates in China, opting instead for native workers who are familiar with the technological nuances of the country. VMware also set up partnerships with Chinese companies.


Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. You can email him at david.vranicar@newsroom.ectnews.com.



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