China’s social networking landscape is diverse and thriving. No single player is nearly as dominant as Facebook in the U.S. and there’s a long tail of networks for different users (urban and rural) and different purposes (social, dating, and games). Here is China’s SNS universe for the top 7 sites.
And here is a table of the top 15 social networks in China. Please note this table is more a work-in-progress than a finished product. Finding reliable numbers on the Chinese internet is notoriously difficult: there are lies, damned lies, and Chinese statistics. Take them with a pound of salt. Note: Here is the 2010 edition and 2011 edition of my in-depth analysis of “China’s Top 4 Social Networks.”
The Top 15 (in words)
- Qzone - China’s largest social network is built on the back of the 637 million active accounts for Tencent’s QQ Messenger. The question for Qzone is not quantity, but rather the quality of its nickname-based social graph.
- RenRen – RenRen is China’s leading real-name social network that intends to IPO soon. It’s setting the standard for SNS in China, but still faces challenges from other social networks, notably Tencent’s Pengyou and Kaixin001.
- Pengyou – Tencent’s latest entry into the real-name social networking space has many users. But even more so than with Qzone, the real question is, how strong is the social graph?
- Sina Weibo – Sina Weibo is a red-hot microblogging service that threatens China’s social networks with a new model. Can microblogging surpass social networking in terms of popularity in China? Its features now far surpass those of Twitter, including threaded comments, pictures, videos, IM, and LBS.
- Kaixin001 – Kaixin001 gained popularity amongst white-collar workers via its social games and post-forwarding features. But as the social games mania has died down and the appeal of its post-forwarding has been usurped by Sina Weibo, Kaixin001 is now struggling. Various insiders report that user numbers have declined precipitously.
- 51.com – 51.com enjoyed early popularity among comparatively rural users, but now appears to be in a downward spiral. One recent report says peak simultaneous users are down to 700,000. 51.com’s claim of 178 million “registered users” is either irrelevant or fake, a case that requires skepticism by the tonne.
- Douban – Douban has perhaps the strongest community of any social network in China. It’s never had explosive growth or a massive user base (in China terms), but it attracts young urban Chinese who together over movies, books, music, and events. A good network for hipsters and creatives.
- Taomee – A social network and gaming site (similar to the Disney-owned Club Penguin) that’s massively popular with Chinese children (and their mothers). Taomee is in fact the parent company that runs a number of different children’s sites, including: Moer (mole-themed), Saier (sci-fi themed), and XiaoHua (princess-themed).
- Tencent Weibo – Tencent is also aggressively pushing its Weibo (microblog) service in order to compete with Sina. It claims over 100 million registered users, but again with Tencent there’s the concern of quality over quantity–iResearch reports that Sina Weibo controls 87% of time spent by Chinese users on microblogs, while Tencent holds only 9%.
- Jiayuan – China’s most popular online dating site, which is rumored to have plans for an IPO.
- Tao Jianghu – A social network based around the massively popular e-commerce site, Taobao. Profiles are automatically created for Taobao users, though the vast majority are skeletons; only a fraction of users are active. Adding a social layer is one of Taobao’s key objectives for 2011.
- Bai Shehui – The “white-collar society” network by Sohu, one of China’s largest internet portals. Sohu also develops its own social games for this platform.
- Zhenai - One of China’s leading dating sites, which is also rumored to be preparing for an IPO.
- Baihe – One of China’s leading dating sites.
- iPartment – An avatar-based dating site from Taiwan where teens and young adults move into a virtual apartment together. Revenues come from advertising, virtual goods, and e-commerce.
tips [at] techrice [dot] com