Type of site
|Web 2.0, Social network service, Online music, movie and book database|
|Key people||Yang Bo|
|Launched||March 6, 2005|
Douban.com (Chinese: 豆瓣; pinyin: Dòubàn), launched on 6 March 2005, is a Chinese social networking service website that allows registered users to record information and create content related to film, books, music, recent events, and activities in Chinese cities. Douban is named after a Hutong in Chaoyang District, Beijing where the founder lived while he began work on the website. Douban is at times regarded as functionally similar to Reddit.
Douban was formerly open to both registered and unregistered users. For registered users, the website recommends potentially interesting books, movies, and music to them in addition to serving as a social network website such as WeChat, Weibo and record keeper. For unregistered users, the website is a place to find ratings and reviews of media.
Douban has about 200 million registered users as of 2013 and some Chinese authors as well as critics register their official personal pages on the website.
Douban (Beijing Douwang Technology Co. Ltd.) was founded by Yang Bo (杨勃). He majored in physics at Tsinghua University before he attended University of California, San Diego as a PhD student. After receiving his PhD in computational physics, he worked as a research scientist at IBM. Later, he returned to China, becoming the CTO of a software company founded by one of his friends.
In 2005, Yang started to create a website for travelling named Lüzong (驴宗), initially a one-person project at a Starbucks in Beijing. In a couple of months, however, the site was transformed into what is now known as Douban.com.
Douban has attracted a large number of intellectuals who are eager to discuss social issues. This makes Douban vulnerable to censorship by the Chinese government. Douban reviews all content posted on the website, preventing some material from being posted in the first place, and taking down other materials after the fact.
In March 2009, Douban removed art paintings of the Renaissance on the grounds that they contained 'pornographic' elements. This led to a campaign called "Portraits: Dress up" in which internet users were asked to dress up images of famous renaissance nudes in a protest against Douban's self-censorship. The administrators then removed the discussion about the campaign.
That year also saw the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and Douban further extended its keyword list to ban any terms that are likely to relate to the incident. One example is the ban on mentioning Victoria Park in Hong Kong, the venue where the memorial gathering for the 20th anniversary was held, in the fear that it may lead to sensitive discussions. Users also found that some discussion groups, like the Hong Kong cultural study group hkren （一兜）, were suddenly banned and all topics were removed without any notice. This angered some members, causing them to move to other similar websites that employ less strict self-censorship policies.
In 2011, some Chinese lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups announced that they had planned to boycott Douban as their posts announcing an LGBT-themed film festival had been censored by the website. In mainland China, films and television programs with LGBT themes are subject to state censorship.
On 6 September 2021, Douban temporarily shut down its reply function for a period of seven days, citing "technical reasons". The move was controversial as it coincided with a statement issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China, or CAC for short, that scrutiny will be tightened against "chaotic fan culture" perpetuated online. Douban later released a statement pledging to levy heavier penalties on users that conducted unlawful and irrational behaviors. This included utilizing click farming to raise the ranks of celebrities on popularity leaderboards, posting disparaging comments, and spreading malicious gossip. Douban also stated that it may suspend user accounts that engage in these activities, or even dismantle entire online groups if members violate rules.
Shortly after the statements issued by the CAC and Douban, several fan groups on the platform had to rename their communities to indicate a change in attitude toward celebrity culture and fandoms. Some groups said they would no longer accept posts about celebrity gossip. Some Douban users also contemplated moving to other social media platforms such as sports forum Hupu and Reddit-like Baidu Tieba.
Douban is host to the Douban Goose Group, a community of members whom are mostly young women that share gossip and news about celebrities. As women far outnumbered men in the group, topics of discussion often veered towards matters of gender equality too, which has received clapback. Members of the group, sometimes known as "sisters", were often labeled as "radical feminists" who sought to disrupt the status quo. Some of their posts on the Douban platform have reportedly been deleted, and some users have even received outright bans for "improper speech".
Douban's administrators have at times been suspected of infringing user privacy. In 2015, a group of Douban users alleged that their privacy had been violated. One of the users stated that Douban deleted his backup data in a private group without his consent, which should have been confidential information and no one should be able to see it except the users. 
On 15 April 2021, the Beijing Internet Court announced that it had accepted a case involving disputes over the privacy rights and personal information protection of Douban. In this case, a user accused Douban of collecting personal location information and demanded compensation of a loss of 1 yuan. Douban was sued for infringing user privacy. According to the user, he never authorized Douban to obtain his personal information regarding his geographic location, although Douban were nonetheless able to push advertisements based on his location.
Douban has been accused that many users of Douban purposely gave The Wandering Earth, a 2019 Chinese science-fiction film, one star. Critics further accused that some users "change their given five stars to one star" and some users are paid to give one star to the film, which later turned out to be false. On 12 February 2019, Douban officially announced that "mass score-changing is abnormal and it won't be counted in the total score. To avoid such incidents, we are urgently optimizing product features." in its official Sina Weibo account.