Sina Weibo – The Chinese Twitter

October 19, 2015


China has been front page news when it comes to online censorship policy regarding major players in the web, be it the globally-dominant search engine Google or the social networking leader Facebook. China has always been strict with regards to censorship and most of the country has no access to these sites. There have been alternatives such as Baidu, the leading search engine in China, and QQ, the top social networking site.

When Chinese authorities decided to block Twitter, there was a sudden opening for a widely-accessible micro-blogging platform, which lead to the creation of Sina Weibo. It was launched just two months after Twitter was blocked in June 2012, and has been running on the domain name Weibo.com since April this year.

Weibo.com logo Chinese with domain - Image by bfishadow

Pronounced as “way-boar”, Weibo functions exactly like Twitter but in the Chinese language. It is very important to know that it has already crossed the 140 million registered users mark within the 2 years of functioning, now over 160 million according to some sources. Twitter, on the other hand, may have a registered users mark of over 200 million, but some raw figures say that only 40% users are active. Weibo has not revealed much information in this regard, however it is believed that this figure is somewhere around 33%.

A major factor in its success is that despite the 140 character limit, the nature of the Chinese language is such that much can be said in that space. Sina – the owners of Sina Weibo – have set strict censorship controls in place. There are a number of restricted keywords and the use of URL shortening services, or even using the Tibetan language. Forbidden posts or writing on sensitive issues are all monitored manually and any posts violating the rules are deleted. The website supports simplified and traditional Chinese language interfaces and also hosts separate versions for users from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan.

While the website has had its fair market share, the only drawback is that it is available only in the Chinese language thus limiting the international non-chinese speaking market. Though we may not be sure if Weibo is trying to target international target market as well, it certainly been a runaway success and filled the gap that opened after Twitter was banned.

Do you think that the Chinese authorities decision to ban Twitter was justified? Lets us know what you think of it in the comments section below.

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