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Monday, July 30, 2007

Mister Wong’s New Logo

Mister Wong is the name of a German social bookmarking site that just changed its logo after user protest. But let’s start with a little background.

According to their about page, was launched by Kai Tietjen (of the Construktiv PR/ online agency) in 2006 and now lists more than 1.5 million bookmarks. “Mister Wong is already more popular than in Germany,” the site proclaims. “Overall we handle as much traffic as – and we’re still growing rapidly!” One of German’s newspapers, the Hamburger Morgenpost, in April 2006 even ran a story depicting to be “going in attack stance against Google” (continuing to explain that “not machines, but humans create a search for web pages”).

Mister Wong’s growth is not restricted to Germany. The site is also available in localized versions, including in Englsh – the homepage proudly showing off an Alexa traffic chart where Mister Wong tops some competitors – and for China (a YouTube video has employees Li and Lan introducing Wong to the Chinese market). But some of this growth brought attention the site owner Mr. Tietjen might not have wanted (unless he prescribes to the any-news-is-good-news motto). Ernie Hsiung of the 8 Asians multi-author blog in May pointed out the logo Mister Wong used ...

... and wrote this in regards to the site:

Why yes, that WOULD be the logo of Mister Wong to the right, thank you for noticing.

Yeeeeeah. Wow.

I mean, being an engineer in the web industry, I’m sure it has some of the standard features that make a social bookmarking portal interesting and relevant, but seriously, who were the branding and advertising geniuses that came up with this one? I mean sure, it’s based in Germany, which is practically a whole world away. Maybe people aren’t as sensitive to political correctness as they are here in North America. But seriously, one of their web badges has the slogan “ping pong, king kong, Mister Wong.” Which I, of course, interpret as “ching chong, Mister Wong” and get INCREDIBLY FUCKING ANGRY. It’s like Jeeves, the butler and Uncle Ben had a stereotypical illegitimate Asian son.

The site’s motto is “master of all bookmarks”. Here are some of the badgets the site offered, reading “Ja, ich bin Web 2.0 kompatibel” (“Yes, I am web 2.0 compatible”), “Wong the Web”, and the one reading “ping pong, king kong, mister wong”:

Mister Wong was also starring in the blog, once with his family visiting Paris for the French launch of the site, once on Hamburg’s Christopher Street Day under the headline “sexy has a new name:”, and once under the headline “Mister Wong smartens up through the use of tags”, with chopsticks in hand pointing to an Einstein-ish formula:

Ernie lives in the San Francisco Bay area and also blogs at since 7 years (and he’s not humor adverse, but says it depends on context). He admits that he doesn’t speak German so he can’t tell how the site came up with the idea for the site name and logo, but comments, “Mister Wong had better been based on a real person and saved twenty burning German orphanages, because otherwise, I’m calling foul.”

Actually, the site name has no such origin of a real person. The German XPunktNull publication interviewed Kai Tietjen in 2006. Asked about the site’s name, Tietjen says, “Originally Mister Wong was to be named completely differently. But one morning I had this image of Mister Wong in my head. The whole team liked it immediately, and after one of our designers came up with the illustration, we said ’Yes!’ and were happy.”

The protest at 8 Asians and other places was not met without some counter-protest, at least when it came to some German users who started commenting; Tobi from Germany asked people to be more “relaxed” and to stop spreading political correctness “all over the world”. But the protest was heard by the site makers, and by now, changed its layout. This is the top left part of the new homepage (screenshot from today):

According to German Spiegel Online “Mister Wong isn’t laughing anymore.” Spiegel continues to write, “The German bookmarking service removed their logo. The laughing Asian Wong is gone – American users were outraged over the depiction and accused the German creators of racism.” Founder Tietjen is quoted in the article, saying, “It was never my intention, nor that of my company, to hurt anyone with the use of the illustration.” Now that the logo is gone since a couple of days, Tietjen adds that, “Though this was met with great disappointment from many of our users, we felt it was the right thing to do.”


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