Alibaba’s cloud unit saw a commercial opportunity and teamed with a cybersecurity solutions company Fortinet in America to connect Chinese students to their university portals overseas, Reuters revealed in July, claiming Tencent had the same offer.
Tencent’s proposal has been unveiled in detail. In March, Apple released the Chang’e Education Acceleration app, which helps to speed up the loading time for a variety of international educational services.
The app is “An online learning free accelerator from Tencent, with a mission to provide internet acceleration and search services in educational resources to students and researchers at home and abroad.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect lives and airlines around the world, many Chinese students enrolled in foreign institutions are stuck. All students have great difficulty studying at home in China.
Since website traffic must travel via China’s censorship system, called the “great firewall,” the school websites and other academic materials load painfully slowly.
Alibaba states that its technology speeds up network connections. Partners such as Fortinet provide optional VPN solutions.
Chang’e allows users to choose from 8 countries for “acceleration” on its welcome page, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Besides, it indicates that for each area, the latency time and estimated speed have increased.
Chang’e listed educational materials that users may access via the app’s built-in browser after selecting a country. They comprise 79 top universities’ websites, largely from the United States and the United Kingdom. Team communication platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Trello, are also available.
Additionally, there are remote-learning websites like Udemy and Coursera; research resources like JSTOR and SSRN; medical resources such as Lancet and PubMed; and engineering and programming sites like IEEE and Codeacademy.
The app is free and downloadable on Android and iOS. It does not currently ask users to register, which is an unusual act in China where internet activities are highly monitored and many websites require users to register using their actual names.
In China, “VPN” has a negative implication since it usually means bypassing the “great firewall” illegally. Otherwise, they use the term “accelerator” or “scientific internet surfing tool.” As shown in a TechCrunch test, when Chang’e is turned on, the phone’s VPN status is “on.”
Tencent informed that the app is not a VPN. The company did not specify how it describes VPN or how Chang’e technically operates. Chang’e was first made available on its official website in October.