微博 → WĒI BÓ → MICRO-BLOG
Continuing on my talk about the Chinese internet scene last week, many homegrown Chinese companies swiftly filled in the void left by Western internet portals and services, of which nearly all of them are either terribly slow to access from the Mainland, or are outright blocked. Google has Baidu, Facebook has Renren, YouTube has Youku, Tudou (merged with Youku), Sohu TV, LeTV, and several others, in addition to many other services.
Despite many being dubbed copycats due to the nature, these services did not only beat their Western counterparts in the Mainland, but they are also worthy of comparison even outside of Asia. Despite the ‘gated garden’ that the government has created, these services hosted within said garden provide a suitable substitute, if not better, to the average Chinese. Baidu has long been superior in terms of their search algorithms and Pinyin recognition than Google ever was before it (sort of) gave up, aside from providing all sorts of handy online services such as it’s Baike knowledgebase, Zhidao (Yahoo Answers Chinese counterpart), it’s Theatre database, and as one I recently found out and started liking, the free (and surprisingly legal!) music download service. Apple Music can rot with this in play. YouTube’s substitutes make up for more than just user-generated content, as their services not only offers free, ad-supported music video streaming, but also TV streaming in ways similar to Hulu and Netflix. Many of these sites understand better of the interests of the Chinese 网民 (netizen), and said knowledge is powerful in harnessing the attention of the largest connected population by country.
Lastly, and to relate to the word above, I’d also like to mention Twitter’s contender in the east, aside from also being the dominant social network in Mainland China and possibly Taiwan, Sina Weibo. While not being the only ‘Weibo’ service in China, and just being half in quantity when compared to Twitter, they did boast more than 170 million monthly active users, and are ranked 15 globally on Alexa. It is amazing when you can take advantage of a popular service in the West, and make few modifications to make it effective towards the Chinese. Additionally, I can say myself that with the features they’ve added alongside core mechanics already existing on Twitter, Weibo would indeed serve as a more feature-rich feature than Twitter itself.
That being said, there are still strong weaknesses that exist within Sina Weibo itself. For one encryption doesn’t seem to be a thing when looked at the surface (their password change page isn’t even SSL-secured on the browser window!), and the other, possibly the most annoying part of Chinese internet, is that almost no one bothers to create a working English version. I understand that the Chinese market is big enough to handle, but if I would suggest anything to make these sites better: make an actual English version, instead of just machine-translating. I would love to see Weibo provide an actual translation of at least their core features and backend menus. I am getting tired of putting text on Google Translate.
With all that said, I can finally say that I do have a Weibo account set up for some time already. I already have a little following, and you are welcome to join if you do have a Weibo account. Feel free to follow me there, and I will soon continue on about the Chinese internet scene….