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Is my site blocked by the Great Firewall of China?

How to tell if a site is being blocked, and possible solutions

10:44 pm on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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A former client has approached me with the problem that their site is no longer accessible from within China. All pages return a 403 Forbidden, and the site can not be accessed through the IP address either. The IP address can be pinged though. No other sites are hosted on that IP.

They have subdomains which are hosted on servers in their office (and not by the host responsible for the main domain) and those pages are accessible.

It doesn't seem to be blocked in other countries, as they have salespeople throughout the world whom haven't complained.

They sell a CAD product, and do not have any content that would be thought to be seditious.

Roughly two weeks before they started being blocked, I helped them launch a site redesign. None of the content changed, but the layout did extensively. It also has a Business Edition Google Site Search integrated in to the new layout.

Any thoughts? If they are being blocked, what avenues should be explored to rectify the situation? Are there any ways to deal with it from within the Chinese authority?

9:15 am on Feb 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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That's a timely topic, as I just posted this thread: How the Great Firewall of China works [webmasterworld.com]. The linked article in that thread is quite informative.

A lot of people would argue that it's imperative to host your site inside China if you're serious about the market. Here are a couple of threads to get you started:

  • The importance of hosting Top Sites in China; Myth or Reality? [webmasterworld.com]
  • Hosting in China [webmasterworld.com]
  • The importance of hosting Top Sites in China Part 2 [webmasterworld.com]

    The Chinese blocking efforts are difficult to track, impossible to predict, and generally not something you can influence if your site is not physically hosted in China. There are a few older threads here where I've linked to a Harvard paper on the subject from 2002: Way to check if a site is blocked? [webmasterworld.com]

  • 1:19 am on Mar 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    Just an update for anyone that's interested.

    Turns out the site was not being blocked by China. Rather it was the host blocking certain Chinese IPs because they had been "attacking" their servers. The salesperson in China just happened to be on one of these IPs.

    That explains why they were being served 403 Forbidden headers.