The notorious U.S.-based social networking service, Ashley Madison, connects married people seeking extramarital affairs and its next stop is China. Founded in 2002, the adult Web site has over 20 million members in 25 countries worldwide, and is eyeing China's exploding Internet user base, according to its founder Noel Biderman, Sohu news reported on Thursday.
In July when the site first landed in Japan, it attracted over 300,000 registered members in just two weeks, a big surprise to Biderman, who become determined to tap the much bigger Chinese market.
It made a push into Hong Kong last week. However, the launch immediately attracted criticism and protests from several Hong Kong local groups, who claimed that "Chinese people have great respect for marriage and the family", and they will do all that they can to "uphold the values and maintain the stability of marriage and the family".
A professor from the Chinese University of Hong Kong admitted that the concept of marriage in the city have become increasingly vulnerable as Hong Kong couples are facing mounting financial burden and other social pressures. But the scholar believes the site will not become that popular in Hong Kong as it is in Japan.
But the cold reality is, 30 out of 100 married couples in Hong Kong filed for a divorce in 2011, twice as many as in 1991. Biderman indicated Hong Kong was an "interesting place" since relationships and marriages are in a transition period in the city.
Without any promotion in Hong Kong, people in the city have visited the Web site over 320,000 times last year, according to Biderman, who insisted that data proves that his choice of breaking into the Chinese market was a smart decision.
To Biderman, Hong Kong with a mere 7 million population is a mere springboard to the vast Chinese mainland market where the population exceeds 1.3 billion. Biderman said more than 640,000 people from the Chinese mainland have been trying to visit Ashley Madison last year, representing huge demand in the market. He expects a ten-fold membership growth from mainland China if the Web site is able to succeed in Hong Kong.