Sina View (新浪视野) is the latest Sina product to piggyback on Sina Weibo. I’m calling it a crossbreed of Google Reader and Flipboard because it’s a product that originated as a Flipboard clone on the iPad and was then redesigned into a close Google Reader clone for browsers. So it’s a cross platform product that provides the same service, but with a different visual design.
Disclosure: I am writing this review at the request of a friend from Sina, though I will uphold my independence here. My opinion obviously does not represent that of Sina Corporation.
The Flipboard Clone
The predecessor of Sina View was Sina’s mobile news application that was and still is available on most mainstream mobile OSs. Many Chinese iPad users are using Flipboard clones like Zaker and QQ Reader, as the original Flipboard was blocked for a period of time here.
Sina View, presumably as a revamp of Sina News mobile, was launched earlier this year for iPad only. It has the same Flipboard style of animated page flipping and is fully integrated with Sina Weibo, allowing users not only to organize RSS contents but also follow people from Weibo. This is a waste of functionality in my opinion since we are already “following” people in Weibo and repeating the same action while receiving the exact same feeds is well… a waste.
There is an irony here: last year Flipboard entered the Chinese market through a “close” cooperation with Sina and Weibo. If you search in the China Apple App Store, it will automatically transfer you to the Flipboard China edition with full Sina Weibo integration. But what happens when your partner launches the exact same app?
It bears similarities to Tencent’s crafty hedging against Groupon China, when it “partnered” on that service and all the while operated its own group-buying service and invested in others.
How secure is your China strategy?
Sina View Browser Version
Anyway, let’s move on. I was asked by a friend at Sina to review the browser version of Sina View. It essentially has the same functionality but with a different visual design.
Somehow they chose not to leverage HTML5 and create a visually impressive product with full animations and interactivity like Tencent did for its WebQQ. That’s a shame, considering most of Sina View’s existing users own an iPad and could easily access an HTML5 version.
Upon my first log-in, I was prompted to pick my channels then directed to the home page which by design resembled Sina’s video service Kandian (I hadn’t previously used their iPad App–I’m personally still on Google Reader, call me stone-aged). The page displays in a 3-column format with a news feed in the middle, and channels I follow on the right.
Of course I can follow other users here and also see the channels they are following, although I don’t find those to be very attractive features. Every time I comment or retweet posts it’s just the same as in Sina Weibo itself.
Sina is exploring different means to engage their users, attempting to squeeze more stickiness out of its social platforms. Sina View and Kandian are in fact under the corporate structure of Sina Weibo, which may not be the best fit: imagine if Twitter also had a small Youtube and Flipboard department.
[Coming soon] I’m invited to beta test Sina Weibo’s latest commercial product, Enterprise Weibo’s Data Services for Ad clients. I’ll write a review for that, so stay tuned. The investment world is holding its breath waiting to see how Sina will profit from its social platform.
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