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GFWaaS – Make Your Website Work in China (gfwaas.github.io)
117 points by felixding 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

Author here.

Surprised to see this would be in the frontpage of HN. Happy to answer any questions you may have :-)

How does this work? You don't need to disclose secret sauce per se, just enough to understand the legality and robustness of using it.

Not sure I have understood your question. But I'll try to explain.

In terms of tech stack, GFWaaS is a mix of Rails, Apache Guacamole, and headless browser. If you just want to solve your own problem, you could simply setup Guacamole on a server in China, and use VNC in your browser.

The real challenge is dealing with the Chinese Internet. For example, to get reasonable connection speed for VNC, choosing the right cloud service provider is really the key. You have to figure out a way to get an account from the major providers in China (many of them, if not all, require you either live in China or have a local entity), and test the speed and stability of the connections. And, in some cases, because of the bad traffic peering across Chinese ISPs, you website may work relatively well with one ISP but not others, so you have to test with different ISPs.

GFWaaS streamlines the whole process so you can focus on testing your website, instead of finding the right cloud service provider and setting up software etc by your own.

Hope I have explained what you asked, and sorry for my English.

Yes that's helpful. Great explanation!

This is a great idea. Something I struggle with daily living behind the GFW and having to use websites made without understanding of the impacts of the GFW.

VNC.js + docker? What are you using for the dynamic proxy?

I'm not using proxy. The tech stack is described here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19981305

My suggestion is that you can build a proxy server in China, and you can test your website bypass the proxy server to see if your website is work. Chinese cloud host like Aliyun or QCloud may monitor if you have a proxy server like shadowsocks server in their default template os, so you must reinstall it or provide your own template os.

Well, actually it's a Remote Desktop as Service.

The real "GFWaaS" is when you intentionally put blocked keywords on a HTTP page, triggering GFW to reset user connection. That way you can block Chinese users from accessing your website. And it's free.

My suggestion is, may be add more web browsers to your service, make it a browser compatibility test platform, and (innocently) put few servers in China. People will figure out what's going on themselves :P

Is there a list of such keywords maintained anywhere?

I don’t think so, but copy/pasting the Wikipedia article on the Tiananmen Square massacre would probably do the trick.

"Taiwan is a sovereign nation"

"Tiananmen square massacre"

"Free Tibet"

"Falun gong organ harvesting"

"Winnie the Pooh"

Winnie the Pooh !?

Google it. It's a meme about Xi Jinping, who, if you squint your eyes a little, looks like Winnie the Pooh.

Xi jinping is angry enough about this that Winnie the Pooh is a banned concept in a nation of over a billion people.

That's China /shrug

No, they don't provide such user support, it's a free service after all.

But the keyword is not hard to find, really ;P

"Tiananmen Square" or "Tiananmen 1989" will probably work for as long as there is a GFW.

Yes, this project is misleading, in fact, in mainland China to visit foreign websites is not slow, there are only two cases, blocked or not blocked, the former simply can not open, the latter fast enough. There are many surfers in mainland China who buy VPN servers located in such as the US and then have quick access to the blocked websites, indicating that the lines are fast enough. If your site is embedded with a JavaScript code come from the blocked website (a limited number, such as Facebook, Google), it will also cause your page can not to load, just remove the js code and nothing else is wrong. It is not recommended to be misled by this site.

As a person living in China for a couple of months and primarily working on foreign sites all day and night I can say this is false. Sites are throttled to hell and magically speed up upon connecting to a VPN... And your VPNs are constantly under attack too.

It's also highly dependant on the time of day. Foreign sites are near unusable from around 7pm onwards

My experience is that if there is a VPS located in the U.S., which only has a static page/file, and there is no CDN, whether it is access from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, or from mainland China, the speed is similar. Access from mainland China will not be significantly slower. I did this test over and over again.

The reason your site 'slows down' may be that your site is blocked, or the embedded Javascript (such as Google Analytics, Adsense, DISQUS) or CSS/Web Font (such as Google fonts) has listed on GFW's blacklist. I feel sorry that my last reply may be not made it clear, I mean that the point of this project is not all the truth (why your site is slow), or even a little misleading. Since running website for several years, I must be honest point out that if the mainland China market make sense to you and you want to keep your website always smooth, the only way is to place the server in mainland China or Japan, all other testing, optimization is a waste of time and money.

I'm noticing it even on obscure sites and resources from obscure sites also. Was watching the network panel waterfall and it can take 4sec to resolve a 1kb script.

If I do a git push to gitlab then it can take 90 seconds to even start responding.

I hate the internet so much here that I'm never returning until the firewall is taken down. Some nights I just give up and go to bed early

In my experience it depended heavily on the city I was in, also I usually just visit a couple days per year and each year, the situation was different from before. Changing infrastructure, changing GFW, who knows...

Your experience differs from mine - some sites won't be blocked outright but will be throttled. I can tell they're throttled because as you said, hit the VPN and they load instantly.

I suggest remove "GFW" from the name. It's not funny if your site was blocked for the name when you promise to make clients' websites work in China.

I also wonder if there's really a market for such a tool? Who needs to optimize for China EVERY MONTH? Besides Cloudflare (which sucks)?

I had a similar idea of offering a service to make websites fast in China. Seems more viable.

I find the idea of "Well I'm stuck behind the firewall...how can I sell that as a thing?" amusing, and kinda interesting.

It is also very interesting to have such a service provided by a Chinese developer (the author)

Can't you also just rent a Alibaba cloud instance which is in mainland China and fire up a browser?

Launching servers in China still require ICP to be lawful.


if you just rent a windows server used as remote desktop PC, there is no need ICP. In another words, if there is no ICP bind on the server you have, port 80 will be blocked, 3389 ( windows remote desktop ) is still open, and you could login in the windows server by windows remote desktop, and open any browser to browse website like a PC locating in China.

Only when you run a content distribution platform (like a website, chat room etc).

Other than that, you're mostly fine without an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license.

Only TCP port 80 and 443 requires ICP.

If you just build a service for yourself only, you do not need ICP

I don't have experience launching websites in China yet, what's the benefit or risk of this versus using a AWS partner like this[1] ?

[1] https://www.amazonaws.cn/en/new/2017/whats-new-announcing-pa...

The benefit of this is that it lets you simulate the experience of a Chinese user to debug issues caused by the Great Firewall.

One way to solve those issues could be hosting your website on a Chinese server. Note that you'll need to register with the government before you'll be allowed to do that. https://www.amazonaws.cn/en/about-aws/china/faqs/#new%20step

Another way to earn money by looking helpful

Test my website


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