Because of China?s strict censorship rules, Twitter has never been allowed to enter China. Instead, the country uses SinaWeibo, a Twitter/Facebook hybrid. Now, SinaWeibo is looking to expand beyond China ? providing an English language service to users around the world. The only catch ? Chinese censorship will still apply.
SinaWeibo was originally launched in 2009 by SINA Corporation, owners of China?s biggest web portal. According to SINA, the site has amassed over 140 million users, with 20 million more being added each month ? all sending millions of messages each day. Of course, the content is all censored, with posts containing censored topics or inflammatory wording never making it to the published content stream. However, users do not seem to mind; a code of sorts has developed to circumvent certain banned keywords; other topics just are not discussed.
In anticipation of moving beyond China?s borders, SinaWeibo has commercialised its services; adopting features that Twitter seems to be reluctant to add. According to Financial Times? Katherin Hille, the commercialism will give Weibo an edge:
"Sina Corp, Weibo?s parent, has developed features to make it more suitable than Twitter for commercial use. Pictures and videos can be easily posted and re-posted. Re-posted messages form a long thread in which pictures remain visible, and such a conversation makes it much easier for a commercial product or service to go viral."
However, whether Weibo will ever serve as true Twitter competition remains to be seen.