The reign of the Sina Dynasty may be on the wane in the realm of Chinese microblogs. Regional warlords have risen rapidly to take advantage of weaknesses on the fringes of Sina’s empire. To add to Sina’s troubles, upstarts are recruiting confused citizenry in guerrilla warfare and sleeping Titans may be starting to stir.
On last Friday, Follow 5′s operation manager Bi Yang (毕扬) announced on Sina Weibo that their servers will shut down in 30 days. This is the first major casualty of the Microblog War in China, and the death of an innovative startup that had so much potential. I wrote this post over the weekend to share how an innovative startup dies in China.
I was recently invited to join Sina Weibo’s new user verification program DaRen (达人), which means “expert” in Chinese. This beta program, which offers incentives for users to verify their personal information, is the beginning of Sina Weibo’s push towards real-identity social networking.
The first step is the same as the existing real-name verification process: I was asked for personal information like my passport number (or National ID number for Chinese nationals) and home address. But the second step is different: instead of proving a professional background, I was asked to choose a maximum of 3 interests from 15 categories: Movie, Music, Travel, Fashion, Literature, Animation, Horoscope etc.
Our team at iChinaStock created a slideshare “Inside Tencent Weibo.” In the process, it became clear that it’s impossible to introduce Tencent Weibo independently of Tencent’s other social services: QQ Messenger, Qzone (nickname SNS), and Pengyou (real-name SNS). Tencent Weibo is available inside of each–you never even have to go to t.qq.com to be a Tencent Weibo user.
In US terms, Tencent’s social hub is as if AIM, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter were owned by one company, and all cross-promoted and synced to each other. That also explains part of Tencent’s surely inflated user numbers–content is often synced across Tencent’s social services by default, but counts as an “active user” on each.
To understand why a Chinese micoblogging service like market leader Sina Weibo will win not just in China but perhaps globally, it’s important to first understand why micro-blogging is becoming an integral part of China’s critical infrastructure.
As noted by the China Daily (the official newspaper of China), which dubbed 2010 “Year of the Microblog in China” (中国微博元年), microblogs are an increasingly vital tool for the government to broadly disseminate information on a timely basis as well as to monitor public opinion and developments away from the capital.
3 months ago I posted Sina Weibo Launches Groups, Threatens China Social Networks, that was when Sina Weibo the Chinese Twitter introduced Groups in their micro-blog service, back then it was a huge step ahead in forming a proper SNS that stood up and challenged the traditional SNS sites such as RenRen and Kaixin in China. Yesterday Sina took another revolutionary step by introducing Multi-media Weibo (Tweet).
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