China blocked WP7 Marketplace? (Updated: more test)

Well, guess most of us know that China always wants to control its entire web traffic. It doesn’t want its netizens to see what’s “not proper” by the government standard, thus sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook are all blocked by the national internet filter dubbed the “Great Firewall”, or “GFW” in short. Along with popular SNS sites there are countless .au, .jp, .tw and .hk domain sites blocked for no apparent reason.

Now joining the rank of “China Hates You Club” might be our Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.

In the past 3 days or so, most Chinese WP7 users in my circle (myself included) had this problem: the Marketplace tile shows a certain number of apps could be updated, but when we click update, the progress bar stays “pending” like forever, then suddenly surge to 100%, and ends up “attention required” fail right away. The ISPs or carriers we had this problem on include:

- Beijing Unicom home ADSL

- Beijing Unicom 3G

- Shanghai Telecom ADSL

- Shanghai Unicom 3G

- China Mobile Fujian division 2G (worked briefly an hour ago and now as dead as a brick again)

- Zhejiang Unicom

Technically it could be the Marketplace itself going nuts. But now I’m sitting in my office where the WiFi is routed through a VPN to the United States. And guess what? All those apps stuck in the updating process last night are now getting updates super fast.

That leads to the conclusion that something went wrong between the Marketplace and our phones: the connection itself.

We are quite positive that WP7 Marketplace has been GFWed by China, although not being 100% sure yet. It’s not really a surprise. A couple of years ago when I was an Androider, the Android Market was GFWed by DNS hijack too. We worked around it by tweaking phone HOSTS files and such, but the solution just isn’t stable. Maybe for stability’s sake, Motorola now rips the Android Market off its phones shipped to China and replaces it with two 3rd party alternatives, one from Moto itself, the other from a Chinese download site.

We don’t know if this GFW block will be permanent. But even in the worst case, we believe with Nokia’s moving to WP7, it will be lessened. After all, China is still a Nokia country, and Nokia just got ranked the #1 most trusted consumer brand in a national survey not long ago.

Note: Almost every Chinese WP7 user is now on Mango Beta just for the Chinese input’s sake. There is a slim chance that the Marketplace problem lies in the Mango Beta server, although from the look of it, Mango Beta and NoDo devices actually shares the same Marketplace server.

Update:

Just tested the Marketplace again on Unicom 3G. Previously overlooked the app-buying process. This is now very frustrating. If this is Microsoft’s doing, I think it’s already committing business fraud (essentially the same as phishing) and could be brought to the court. The testing result (all done on phone) is:

- Browing the Marketplace: OK

- Searching for apps: OK

- Buying paid apps (checking Live profile and credit card): OK

- Billing: OK

- Downloading what I just paid for: Fail, can’t connect to the Marketplace.

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