The speed of revolution among Chinese Internet social sites is so fast that it makes Google, Yahoo and Amazon look molasses in January on the Siberian border.
Anyway, as some readers already responded to my previous blog, Sina Weibo (“weibo” means microblogging in Chinese) is the hottest microblogging service in China. Tencent Weibo, built on the back of QQ, is also growing rapidly in the rural areas in China, according to some reports.
As one of my colleagues in Beijing explained, microblogging with a 140-character limit (in Chinese) is a familiar concept for locals. It comes naturally, because Chinese kids, when they reach middle school, are often required to describe “the central thoughts of your story” in a brief paragraph during exams. This turns out to be basic training for microbloggers.
As of March, 2012, according to Sina, an online media company in China that owns it, Sina Weibo has 300 million registered users. Further, Sina Weibo users post an average of more than 100 million microblogs a day, spending the average time of about 60 minutes.
Of course, like so many Chinese products, Sina Weibo is a cunning knockoff, a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. Many users post content from mobile terminals, and 40 percent of microblogging is photo-sharing Sina expects that by the end of this year, two thirds of its microblogs will be viewed on mobile devices instead of PCs.
On which mobile platforms are people microblogging in China?
Source: Sina Weibo
So, taking Sina Weibo
seriously, how is it different from U.S. social media? Why do some analysts even say that Sina Weibo is more feature-rich and advanced than Twitter?
Sina Weibo home page
Alvaris Falcon, a web designer and blogger at www.hongkiat.com lists a few intriguing comparisons between Sina Weibo and Twitter.
First, Sina Weibo offers threaded comments. “In Twitter you have to browse the @mentions to see what people think about your tweets, and those commenting tweets are even mixed with other commenting tweets with different topics. With threaded comment, you can see all users’ comments, properly sorted under your tweet by just one click,” he writes.
Second, Sina Weibo allows users to insert rich media like images, videos, music, emoticons, and even polls. No plug-ins required.
A third difference is called Micro Topics. Weibo takes any tweet that’s related to a certain topic, then creates a unique page for all users to view and discuss the particular topic.
Fourth, Weibo offers a dedicated page for trends, called the “Board of Fame.” Whether it’s the Next Big Thing of the last hour, or today, or even this week, Weibo’s Board of Fame keeps the chronically hip user up to the minute and provides embarrassment insurance, according to hongkiat.com’s Falcom.
Fifth, Sina Weibo provides a “Verified Account.” It's specifically created for celebrities and famous people, but anyone who wants to be treated like a celebrity can register a verified account. Sina Weibo also has a dedicated page for highlighting celebrities, called the “Hall of Celebrity.” It pigeonholes celebrities into categories like entertainment, sport, finance, tech, etc.
There’s more. But based on these features, it’s easy to see why Sina Weibo might be more interesting than Twitter. Clearly, the speed of updates and changes in features appears to be much faster in China.
To be clear, I am not turning a blind eye to the Chinese government’s recent crackdown on Sina Weibo, and subsequent actions taken by Sina Weibo, which instituted a three-day comment ban on its microblog sites. The censorship element constantly looms as the elephant-sized threat to any great leap forward in Chinese social media.
As Time magazine
noted, “On one hand, as the country’s largest microblogging site, it faces more scrutiny from the government than other sites. On the other hand, it became popular in the first place precisely because users can engage in passionate discussions about issues they care about.
“It’s a fine line — court too little controversy and your pageviews will go down, court too much and the government will crack down on you.”
As we dig deeper, we inevitably find that nothing is black and white – especially in China. China’s homegrown Internet services, including Weibo, will continue to evolve. After all, the one constant in China is “change.”
But if you think Internet services in China are moving at warp speed, wait ‘til you hear about the speed of change in the Chinese semiconductor industry – in terms of fabless semiconductor companies’ decision-making, tape outs and their response time to the market. ARM China’s Allen Wu characterizes such developments as “China’s Internet-site changes on steroids.”
But I’m saving that discussion for later. Stay tuned.
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