Productivity tool Notion said Monday its service is no longer accessible from within China, weeks after a Chinese company launched a similar app that has been accused of copying the US startup.

Why it matters: Sites inaccessible from within China are usually services that provide information or methods of communication. It is rare that productivity tools like Notion are restricted from offering services in the country.

  • The San Francisco-based startup announced last week it was lifting limits on its primary note-creation feature for users on its free plan, boosting the popularity of the collaboration software with individual users alongside rivals such as Airtable and Evernote.
  • The app allows users to publish their notes for public view, making it essentially a content management system. Some have speculated that Notion’s publishing function is one of the reasons it is restricted in China.

Details: Notion’s status Twitter account tweeted Monday its service had been “blocked by a firewall in China” and that the company is “monitoring the situation.”

  • The site is not accessible from any of the provinces or municipalities in mainland China, according to Chinaz (in Chinese), a website performance tool.
  • The blockage has sparked an outcry on Chinese social media platform Weibo with many users complaining that they have been barred overnight from accessing their notes stored on Notion.
A screenshot of Hanzhou’s user interface. (Image credit: Hanzhou)

Context: Just weeks before Notion was blocked in China, a Chinese company launched a Notion clone called Hanzhou.

  • An anonymous user of V2ex, a Chinese online developers forum, accused Hanzhou of plagiarizing Notion’s user interface, functions, and even its code in an article published on Saturday.
  • Hanzhou was launched in April by a startup based in Wuhan in central Hubei province, according to the website’s registration information on a database maintained by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The company could not be reached for comment.
  • Founded in 2013, Notion hit a $2 billion valuation in April after raising $50 million from Index Ventures and other investors.

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.