Online social networking for gays
With many online resources relating to the gay scene in China, a gay man in Shanghai cannot function without a murse and an Internet connection. While I can count the number of gay bars and clubs in Shanghai using my two hands, counting the number of Chinese gay Internet sites would require using an abacus and some aspirin. And being the cool and suave gay man that I am, I have all of my gay Shanghai links neatly organized to keep track of it all.

There was once a time when being gay in Shanghai was a dangerous proposition. And then along came the Internet. With its promise of anonymity and some semblance of security, the Internet is the place to be for Shanghai's fabulous gays; the newest site of them all being Gays.com. With its grand opening of its beta version last weekend at Shanghai Studio, Gays.com is the latest edition to the online gay and social networking communities. But with competition from other popular Asian gay sites like Fridae.com, utopia-asia.net, and gaydar.co.uk, how will Gays.com be different from any other site out there? I put the question to Kenneth Tan, PR Manager for and co-founder of the website as well as the owner of Shanghai-based underwear store, MANifesto. "We are not here to be yet another dating site, sex hook-up site or online meat market," says Tan. "We are here to help people foster real-life friendships over the long-term, not one-off meetings."

Besides the general look of the website, Gays.com seems, at first, to be no different than any of the other social networking sites and that is the way they want it. "Gays.com has got more similarities than differences to websites like MySpace.com or Facebook.com," Tan adds, "The only difference is that Gays.com will be a niche social network for LGBT individuals." While the site is only available by invitation at the moment, yours truly was able to get a sneak peak at what the Hong Kong-based site has to offer.

With a sleek look and quick and easy navigation, Gays.com has already attracted enough Shanghai gays for a potluck dinner if needed. And after its recent launch in Shanghai and word of mouth quickly spreading, I am sure it will not be too long until I am regularly referring to the website as the "Gay Facebook" in my column.

Pete