Micro-blogging continues to grow in China, and Sina Weibo – referred to by the SFGate as “China’s homegrown equivalent” to Twitter – is responsible for 87% of the time spent on micro-blogging services there.
The last figures released by Weibo listed the service as having 50 million members back in October 2010. SFGate reported analyst predictions that Weibo will have 120 million members by 2012. According to Business Insider, Sina executives are even more optimistic, expecting 150 million users by the end of 2011. In comparison, Twitter had 175 million as of September 2010.
To give a sense of the big picture, China currently has 450 million internet users. As of 2010 there are 207 million social network users in China, and this number is expected to double, reaching 488 million by 2015 according to a recent eMarketer report.
Sina Weibo’s structure mimics Twitter – posts are still limited to 140 characters, although users can express more since many Chinese words are just 2-3 characters long – and celebrities also form a big part of the appeal to users, as they do in the U.S. However, Business Insider says that it is “not fair to call Sina Weibo a Twitter clone or knockoff” and that Weibo is a “better designed and more stable product” than Twitter – and a platform that Twitter could learn from.
Currently China’s leading site for micro-blogging, Weibo was started in August 2009 and is “now a top information source for many Chinese – and often an outlet for the controversial topics avoided by state-controlled media.” SFGate quotes Lee Kai-fu, Google’s former China head, saying that Weibo is still “by far the best platform for free speech” in China despite the fact that, like other Internet services in China, Weibo will delete or limit sensitive posts as required by the government.
Here’s one last fun Sina Weibo fact: “Weibo” means “micro-blog”, but sounds like Mandarin for scarf. So “zhi weibo” – which means “to knit a scarf” – is now the Chinese equivalent of “tweet” in English.
See additional Sina Weibo information in a presentation from Business Insider: INSIDE SINA WEIBO: China’s (Much Better) Version of Twitter