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Inside Sina Weibo

Grace' Sina Weibo account

China has many Twitter clones and the biggest one (by far) is Sina Weibo. I am amazed by the huge growth of Weibo over the past couple of months. Almost all my Chinese friends and colleagues use it, and even my wife became a heavy Weibo user (so no more complaints about me sharing our whole life online!). After she stepped down from her management role at a couple of weeks ago to spend more time with the kids, I can now follow her whole life in pictures and quotes on Weibo (her account is here). Of course I also have an account, but I only use it to read other people’s updates, so no need to follow me there.

I would not be surprised if one day Weibo will be bigger than Twitter. It is certainly already miles ahead in terms of functionality. But most people outside China have no idea about the service and its functionality. Beijing-based blogger Bill Bishop therefore put a post on his blog today with an embedded presentation of Weibo’s history and main functions, including lots of screenshots.

Silicon Valley pay attention: this product is much better than Twitter, and Twitter (or other clones or even social network sites) can probably learn a lot just by looking at some of Weibo’s functions. It’s so good that I wonder if it might actually one day be able to take on Twitter.

Some of the key facts and features that Bill mentions in his presentation (embedded below):

  • Started in August 2009, now over 100 million users
  • Initial growth by getting celebrities to use it
  • Message threading possible (something I wish Twitter would have)
  • Very stable platform (compare that to Twitter and its Fail Whale)
  • Also 140 characters like Twitter (but you can say about 3-4 times as much in 140 Chinese characters), and if you retweet you get an additional 140 characters
  • Portal-like pages with highlights and hot topics
  • Create private lists of users, join groups around interests
  • No real monetization yet, firehose not for sale
  • In-stream apps, such as games,

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  1. This may be one of the first cases in which Chinese technology gets imitated by foreigners! 🙂

    There’s one reason I doubt Weibo would ever catch on outside of China though: no one likes having their words censored.

    (Very nice presentation by Bill Bishop! Wondering why he would voluntarily put together such an elaborate presentation…)

  2. That’s correct, I know a research company that is given access to the firehose, but Sina doesn’t sell the data (yet) to other businesses.

  3. do you know if it is possible to link your weibo account with twitter. it would make updating your status on twitter way easier. Amazing how fast it goes compared to Twitter (in China). one click everything works!