How to setup a blog and not blocked by GFW in China? This is really a FAQ.
To setup a blog is relatively easy. Not to be blocked is not that easy. I hope this is a complete guide to bloggers inside or outside China.
How Block Works?
Regarding the issue of “block”, there are two camps of websites in the world – websites that is hosted outside China and inside China.
For blogs hosted inside China, they will never be “blocked”. Instead, it will be “shutdown”.
If you host your blog on a Blog Service Provider (BSP), and if there is some “sensitive” content on the BSP, the whole BSP site will be shutdown (an easy way to do it is just a phone call to call the data center and ask the administrator to directly unplug the network cable of the serers). In the history, most of the BSPs in China has been shutdown at least once (like blogbus).
If you are technical enough to host your blog on your own server, the situation is the same as BSP. They will be able to shutdown the site at any time.
Recently, my friends who helps to host other people’s blog was called by police to delete post from time to time…
Also, to setup your own site, you have to register and get an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license to run a blog.
So, in my personal opinion, do not host your site in China. There are millions of reasons people shut it down, and there is no way to argue about this. Also, the risk is to lose all your data. The most interesting thing is, everyone from telecom, to government, to legal system just pretend that this massive shutdown didn’t exist. The existence of this censorship itself is a secret.
Sites Hosted outside China
You can also host your blog outside China. There are also two ways to do it. 1) Host it with a BSP, like blogger.com, typepad.com. 2) Setup your own server.
The first is not practical method now. Why?
The major BSP was blocked. Here are two of them:
Even photo sharing site flickr.com is not completely accessible.
For other BSP, in the future, it may also be blocked. The reason of the block is, there must be one or more blog on the BSP that talks about something the government doesn’t like, and then they block the whole BSP. Your blog will be a victim of the block.
You will have no control of what others write, and you cannot control what the Great Firewall does. So if you host in a BSP, you are not controlling your destiny.
So, my personal suggestion is, host your blog on your own server. Why?
You have much more control of your destiny, although not completely. Most of the hosting is shared hosting, that you put many sites (about 100 or more) on the same server. If any of the sites get blocked, the whole server is not accessible. In this case, just move to another hosting company.
This way, you are, at least, not a victim because other site is blocked.
My choice is host your site with your own top level domain (something.com) and host it on your own server (like bluehost.com or dreamhost.com). This requires more technical skills to do, but it is a good option for serious bloggers.