China-Friendly Paperpile

Hello guys, I am currently based in China as part of my PhD, and I noticed there are several challenges to Paperpile users if they wanna access and use it in / from China Mainland:

(1) Cloud Storage: Google Drive (just like all google services) is censored and can’t be used in China unless circumvented through time-consuming and VPN setups. It’d be great if users could connect the cloud storage of their choice for storing and syncing of their pdf library. Among the major global players in cloud storage, currently only OneDrive works reliably in China (dropbox is censored just like Google Drive). Of course there are tons of Chinese cloud storage providers which could be an asset to have on board as well.

(2) Word Processor: For the same reason (censorship) google docs is not a viable choice of word processor for users in China.Integration with MS Word would make it much more accessible.

(3) Resources used on the Site / App: For Paperpile to work smoothly in China, some of the resources used in the site / app would need to be modified (eg any scripts loaded from google servers, integration of censored social media, …) This is a process that other apps also circumvent, by directing users who access from mainland china to an alternative site / app, that doesn’t rely on these resources. (if you guys are interested, I can help point those out).

I believe China (with close to 3000 universities, over 8 million graduates yearly, of which many continue to postgrad education, and a gigantic number of academics) is a market that is worth a little extra effort to make a great service like Paperpile smooth and easy to use. CHinese students and academics are also by far more tech savvy and open to SaaS applications than the most of the rest of the world, so It’d really be great to see some progress into this direction.


Hi Stefan,

We know that customers use Paperpile from China (most like using VPNs). I would guess that Paperpile is not the biggest problem when it comes to working online and doing research through the great firewall.

In general, we do not plan our product roadmap around some countries’ censorship of the free internet.

That said, point (1) and (2) is something we are in late stages of implementing. It will be possible to use Paperpile without Google Drive. Actually everyone on the beta track using our new PDF viewer or mobile app betas can turn off Google Drive and files will be available through our own servers.

Our Word plugin for Mac is in private beta and a feature complete version (also for Windows) is coming up.

Also we want to de-couple sign-in from a Google account. This is mainly to allow users to easily switch between Google accounts and to use federated logins of universities or companies.

I’m not sure what exactly you are referring to in point 3.

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Great to hear that these improvements may make things easier and smoother for us here soon - great effort!

I never said that paperpile is the biggest problem in terms of censorship for Chinese researchers, my point is, that paperpile is a brilliant service, but is currently hard to use for mainland Chinese researchers, but it could bump up its accessibility and usability (and thus reach in this market) through the improvements I suggested. (some other applications follow such approaches too)

point 3 refer to how paperpile is built: it loads several google scripts that are a common part of web applications and web development in general on many sites (google fonts, google hosted jquery and ajax, google analytics, login via google or other blocked social media etc), yet loading these resources from google (which is blocked in China in its entirety) makes such sites and applications load extremely slowly when accessed from mainland China. Often it also results in certain features malfunctioning or the entire page returning a time-out error.

This is also why you’ll see the majority of China based paperpile users accessing it through a VPN. Here I wanna point out that no-one in China “likes using VPNs” as you put it. Instead, it is the only way to access certain sites and to use certain applications! Without a vpn, such services (paperpile as it currently is included) are simply pretty much not usable because the censorship mechanism affect their performance too heavily.

Some universities provide their staff and students somewhat less restrictive internet access, which often means that some of the google services (google scholar etc) are unlocked and work fine, but once these few lucky researchers leave their campus web, they are back in the boat with the majority of (potential) Paperpile’s users in China, who have a hard time using it as it is at the moment, and may choose other services instead.

I’m glad to see the suggestion somewhat fits in with Paperpile’s next steps - looking forward to more and more improved usability for us here in China soon :slight_smile:

BTW: Is there an ETA on the Windows Word Plugin? This would be great and I could potentially make a different choice for my current project at this point.

Thanks a lot!

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You could try Opera which is fully compatible with PP. I actually prefer it over Chrome, it only lacks the offline caching for GDocs.

Opera comes with a free VPN (needs to be activated once in the settings) which you can activate with one click from the address bar on demand.

We’re very familiar with the available VPN options here, very few are reliable and it’s getting harder and harder (it’s a cat-and-mouse-game with the local censorship mechanisms). Opera on-board vpn is not a workable option unfortunately. I believe the goal should be to make Paperpile run without the need for a VPN, in order to really succeed in the Chinese market…

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