PengYou Login Page

PengYou.com is the newest entry in Tencent’s long line of SNS evolutions. Yet it has a number of qualities that are not common among Tencent’s other services and I strongly believe PengYou will be the competition for other established social networks in China (including RenRen and Kaixin001).

What is PengYou?

PengYou means friend (朋友) in Chinese. Earlier on Tencent had attempted an update of QZone, leaving the previous generation of designs behind and revamping towards the “Facebook look.” Then in early 2009 Tencent took the big step in launching XiaoYou (校友), a school based SNS site following the success of RenRen. But the site was never a hit and a year later it was scrapped and became PengYou.

  • July 2010: Tencent redirected xiaoyou.qq.com to pengyou.qq.com, and begun internal beta testing of PengYou (XiaoYou ceased to exist)
  • September 2010: Tencent launched the first wave of public beta testing of PengYou. 2500 employees of publicly-listed Chinese companies, including some of the Fortune 500 companies, were invited
  • December 2010: PengYou open to the public and Tencent also launched its Open API: opensns.qq.com
  • Currently still in internal testing is a social tool for office workers: office.pengyou.com

Tencent was intended for the elite users right from the beginning–beta invites were sent to testers from top companies. This is actually a different demographic than the students most mass-market social networks first target (including Facebook and RenRen). Kaixin001 has had some success by first targeting white-collars and employee networks.

PengYou’s Competitive Strength

PengYou is a sign of Tencent’s new development strategy, its kryptonite against competitors like RenRen, Kaixin001, and 51.com.

1) Real personal information: Tencent’s QZone was always regarded as an amateur player in SNS because of its nickname-based user profiles. It wasn’t serious enough for most users to truly build strong social networks with. With PengYou all that has changed: real name, education and work backgrounds are required when opening account.

The truthfulness is enforced, not a choice. I was surprised to see my Spiderman profile picture deleted and the site asked me to upload a real photo of me, until which my profile picture remained as a giant question mark.

2) QQ Connections:  There are an estimated of over 620 million QQ IM users in China. PengYou still offers users the choice (though not a requirement) of using their QQ accounts as login (like Facebook Connect). The user can then automatically add all QQ contacts in PengYou as friends, but the catch is that the first time a user logs in, he is required to update his profile with real personal information.

3) QQ Sync: One of the most interesting functions for me is how the synchronization works between PengYou and Tencent’s other services. In the status update, users can choose to sync with QZone, QQ IM, and Tencent Microblog (t.qq.com). Statuses can share up to 200 characters and the user can also be select which social circles will receive the update. For example, a user could send an update to only others in her company (which means that it has some of the functionality of Yammer too).

4) Facebook Connection: When a user indicates a university outside of China, a Facebook login pops up and users are required to login to their Facebook account for verification. It doesn’t seem to work yet, but it’s an interesting development.

5) Independent URL: for once Tencent is not rolling everything into qq.com, which creates speculation that Tencent is serious about building up PengYou as a strong, independent service.

6) Healthy 3rd Party Ecosystem: In PengYou’s apps page, the developer’s company is also named, showing that Tencent is becoming more open-minded. It remains to been whether Tencent will be able to win the trust of developers for its Open API. RenRen, China’s current leader in real name social networks, has an open API but also develops its own apps in-house, which is disconcerting for 3rd party developers.

7) Simplicity: Personally I believe the strongest point of all is how simple PengYou is so far for its users. The site’s services can be easily accessed without seeing numerous ads.

In 2010, we saw countless ad campaigns on networks such as RenRen and 51.com. The companies behind these social networks are turning these social media platforms into MEDIA channels, often neglecting the social aspects of development.

By design, PengYou looks impressive to me. It’s developing in the right direction, especially when compared to the 2011 development strategies of other social networks, which focus mostly on selling ads.

If PengYou doesn’t play out as well as I am anticipating, then Tencent can always take another shot. The company’s image suffered during its fight with 360 anti-virus, but Tencent is still strong and determined to dominate any internet sector it enters.

In addition to local SNS providers, Facebook should watch out if it ever gains re-entry to China. Tencent’s PengYou will be there as a real competitor.

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  • Playfisher

    Great, it maybe Chinese facebook

  • http://twitter.com/mayline974 Carole WAI HAI

    Sunny, great introduction to Pengyou. I have a few questions / concerns about this new SNS.
    1- Giving Chinese gorvernment more information
    After the big fight Tencent/360, it has been clearly reveal that Tencent scan/collect users private data on computer (and pass it to government?). I wonder if users won’t be reluctant to give Tencent more personal data by subscribing to Pengyou. Facebook has more information on its users than any State would ever dream to have about their own citizens… won’t that becaome the case for China is Pengyou become very succesful? I find it a bit scary to say the truth..
    2- Real name SNS. I feel like Pengyou try to HARD to make it a real name SNS. If people feel they are too forced to give away information, it can backfire. Particularly your anecdote of picture being delete becoz not real… seems to me that it is going to far.
    3- QQ and other product sync.
    This is a big strengh for Pengyou because of the great popularity of all QQ product. But at the same time if people enjoy using nickname and being anonymous on forums, QQ…, this sync compromise their anonymousity. Once again, won’t users prefer to not join Pengyou and remain anonymous online?
    4- Last and not least. Facebook connect?
    Why do Tencent assume that if you study abroad You HAVE to HAVE a facebook account and this is the proof that you studied abroad?! And when this function will work, will Pengyou bring all you facebook info and paste them into your Pengyou page? That would be an interesting use of Facebook API…

    • http://twitter.com/DonSunny46664 Sunny Ye

      Looking at PengYou now I’m seeing a test subject, experiment of a kind, because XiaoYou was pretty much a huge fail for Tencent. One of the main reason of failure is because they followed too closely behind RenRen.

      So when PengYou came along the actions Tencent took launching is clearly trying to redefine their SNS environment in to a more distinct service differentiated from the likes of RenRen, Kaixin001, and 51.com.

      The deleting of profile pic is a bit extreme, but looking from another perspective SNS is design for you to add friends you knew, where real social networks can be built and in turn promote user loyalty to the site. Users in China are getting more serious about their online interactions people are actually becoming welling to provide the information to increase the quality of their net lives. One example of that is more users are signing up for RenRen Contacts, where real contact information are filled in and exchanged between friends with constant updates.

      There will be users who are reluctant to hand over real names, education and work backgrounds, but SNS is viral, as their friends are turning in to PengYou they will join eventually.

      On another note, when Tencent invited enlisted companies’ employees for beta testing it’s clear they want to build an elite social network, which is also compliment to the site’s key functions like the QQ sync. It will be more valuable if a user have friends in the same company that they can create a closed “Yammer like” status update communication group. If well developed it can even become independent like Yammer to work solely for closed in communications.

      The way I see it Tencent is not finalizing on SNS with PenyYou yet, there will be PengYou 2.0, 3.0…etc, they are exploring the social needs and boundaries of Chinese netizens, this is only the beginning of them getting serious about the products they provide, and try to realize other forms of commercial values other than selling digital currency and gifts.

      Facebook is a mystery right now, it might be the signal of possible co-op between the two companies

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  • Billy

    How do I delete my Pengyou account????