Tumblr, a light-blogging platform, is a runaway success. But it’s block of IP addresses are blocked by the Great Firewall, leaving China’s netizens without such a simple, elegant solution… until now. Last weekend, I received a beta invitation from DianDian (点点), a new startup with an experienced team. I immediately recognized that we now have a perfect Tumblr clone in China.

The Mastermind behind DianDian

Jack Xu in 2005, when he was CIO at XiaoNei (RenRen)

DianDian (点点) means bit-by-bit in in Chinese, but the rise of its founder Jack Xu has been meteoric.

DianDian founder Jack Xu is considered a genius in the Chinese social networking industry. At 20, he graduated in computer science from Tsinghua University (China’s top university) and founded ChinaRen [a youth SNS in China]. After five years, he joined Sohu, a leading Chinese portal, where he became the Technical Director. In 2005, Jack left Sohu to join the social network then known as Xiaonei, which has since become RenRen, China’s largest real-name social network. Jack was the Chief Interactive at RenRen [and OPI's Kaixin], responsible for managing both sites’ massive expansions from 2005-2009. In 2009, Jack left RenRen to become COO at yet another Chinese internet giant: SNDA Online. With his success in SNS, Jack is considered a prodigy of social in China. And now he’s now focused on building a Tumblr clone.

After reviewing DianDian’s interface, TechRice interviewed Jack Xu about his startup.

DianDian’s Interface

DianDian's Tumblr-esque homepage

DianDian offers the same dashboard design as Tumblr, but the beta version does not yet have pages such as Directory and Goodies, and the types of contents can be shared are only limited to Text, Photo, Blog, and Video [Text is an even shorter form of Blog].

The user profile, for your viewing pleasure

Still in beta, DianDian offers only 3 standard themes for the user profile, with a user descriptions and followers underneath “most recent posts.” Like on Tumblr, users can also open mini-blogs within their main account, and co-author with other users.

So far, DianDian copies about 80% of Tumblr’s functionalities. It’s common for Chinese startups to begin with a pure copy and later localize, if necessary (see Zhihu, Quora clone and XiaoNei/RenRen, Facebook clone).

Will Tumblr’s Model Work in China?

My first impression of DianDian, aside from its likeness to Tumblr, is how much the user experience resembles Sina Weibo, with short, quick contents, including embedded multi-media files and a scroll-down newsfeed. Here is my question-and-answer with Jack Xu, founder of DianDian.

1). Why will DianDian be attractive to users when they already have established social blogging sites like Sina Weibo?


DianDian is a simplified Lite-Blog [Tumbleblog] social community, as for Sina Weibo [microblog] they are more focused on media broadcasting [building media platform]. DianDian’s own focus is on the mass users and their original UCGs [user generated contents], and sharing and customization of these contents.

2). Who do you see as the main competitors to DianDian in China?


Lite-blogging is still a new concept in China, a market in its infancy, a concept that needs to be imported to China.
Because it’s a new concept for the Chinese market, we feels that it’s still a open market for the taking without distinct competitors yet, though of course we will not rule out the possibility of more sites offering lite-blog service in the future.
As for the DianDian team, we need to run in the right direction, and run faster!

3). Sina Weibo has launched voicemail Weibos via mobile and video upload via mobile is coming soon. What is DianDian’s planned strategy in mobile?

新浪微博做得非常成功,给我们创业者很多启发。新浪微博团队把让微博这个新兴的产品逐步大众化,值得我们学习。摆在我们面前的问题,如2年前新浪面临的问题一样,如何把微博这个产品 引爆流行。
我们未来几个月会发布在iphone, android的原生客户端,以及针对手机优化的网页版本。在这个上面我们有一些创新,敬请期待!
Sina Weibo is very successful and it inspires us. Sina Weibo’s team introduced and popularized a trendy and innovative product, so we will learn from them. The challenge before us now is the same that Sina faced 2 years ago when Weibo was first introduced: how to find the explosive tipping point for the product in terms of user volume.
As for mobile strategy, we will be introducing iPhone and Android apps in a few months. And we will also launch customized WAP versions of DianDian. From there onwards, we will be pushing a series of our own innovations, so stay tuned!

DianDian has been online for less than a month, so it’s too early to tell whether it will succeed. But Jack and his team are certainly excited about introducing the lite-blog model in China.

I’ve even established a TechRice account on DianDian, so I’ll keep you posted as unique local innovations are introduced.

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  • imkevinxu

    Very interesting….

    As a strong Tumblr user I’d love to see this take off in China but its just too eerily similar. Will wait and see how they differentiate

  • kayleigh

    Ok, we only need a Chinese LinkedIn right now.

    • http://techrice.com Leo Chen

      There is one. It’s called Ushi.cn

    • http://techrice.com Leo Chen

      There is one. It’s called Ushi.cn

  • Brendan

    How does a person get an invite? I’d love to start using this ASAP!

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Here is another one, http://catfan.me

    • Yuko

      I don`t think this site is a clone, it`s greatly different from others. I love this site.

  • Dennis Chu

    um… have read “LinkedIn Blocked in China. Oh Happy Day for Chinese Copies!”…was wondering why it seems to me that you don’t have better things to blog about but copycats? I mean this Diandian is Tumblr copycat. Is there no non-copycat startup in China or you just turn a blind eye about them?

  • The Chew

    Why don’t China think of something original for a change, rather than continuously ripping off others creativity!? I don’t see any creditable achivements with taking off Tumblr or any other service that is blocked by China

  • abe

    Thats exactly why Chinese gov block the sties, allow the copy cats to do business. And it can really fool their people.

  • JonhEast

    By the way, Tumblr ISN’T blocked in China. Fortunately. So this DianDian is just a concurent for Tumblr, not replacement. Chinese users post on DianDian stuff that is “safe for work”, and as for Tumblr, they post there porn and other stuff that is censored in China. With one nuance: they don’t tag porn pics, to avoid filtration by keywords. Though I don’t know for sure, is Great Firewall filters Tumblr tags.