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Netease Offers China's First Personalized Portal

One of China's most successful portals, Netease.com, has become the first to offer personalized front pages for the mainland Chinese audience.

Since it was launched in 1997, Netease has pioneered a number of services for Chinese Internet users including free Web-based e-mail, free Web hosting and other community services.

Netease serves one million registered users and gets 90 million page views per month, according to company representatives.

"We are very pleased that Netease.com continuously leads the introduction of new Internet products in China," said William Ding, CEO and founder of Netease.com. "This product will integrate all our portal components into a single platform with personalization capability that will enhance our users' online experience dramatically."

The new service, unashamedly dubbed my.163.com, is designed in the same fashion as My Yahoo!, Yahoo's customizable front page.

"With Netease's new service, users can enjoy selecting information, contents, and services tailored to their own interests," said a Netease rep.

Ding indicated that additional features and multimedia capability will be added in the near term.

Netease's flagship product, Freemail, is used by a number of other Web properties including China Telecom's 163.net, 263.net, and China.com Corp.'s China.com and Hongkong.com. Ding says that Freemail is utilized by about half of China's Web-based e-mail users.

In July, Netease launched an online auction site in China, making US$150,000 and selling 110 computers in one week.

According to a recent survey conducted by the China Internet Information Center (CNNIC), total number of Internet users in China reached 4 million, doubling the figure published 6 months ago.

In the previous survey, Netease was rated the number one Web site in China by CNNIC. In the new survey, Netease dropped to number five behind Sina.com.cn, Sohu.com, Yahoo! and 263.net, but the portal is still growing at a steady pace.

Since late last year, Netease's average daily page views have increase from 1.4 million to 2.9 million, indicated Oliver Kwan, Netease's director of business development.

Last year, Netease earned about 5 million RMB (US$613,000) in revenue. The company is hoping to list shares in the United States in the near future and is looking for partners to help promote its brand overseas.

It is rumored that the Chinese portal will be sewing up its first round of financing in the next few months. Up until now, Netease has grown on its own merits with William Ding, the company's founder, initially investing 500,000 RMB (US$61,000).