For Zhang, the Everest stunt was just the latest effort to popularize the Internet in China, where only about 15% of the urban population has Net access. He's an inspiration for Web site operators across the developing world who face high hurdles to win over the masses. "People perceived the Internet as something too technical," says Zhang. Thanks to his high-profile exploits, he says, "people who know nothing about computers now realize they can make life so interesting." Zhang attracts 20 million users a day, a big chunk of China's 68 million-person Net community, and it's profitable, helping to send the stock soaring in the past year.
Now, Zhang is putting his hiking boots back on for another Sohu promotion, a trek up a Tibetan holy mountain. Whatever it takes to glamorize the Net, he's ready to do it.