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Chinese Twitter Wants To Be Facebook Too

Blog | Web + Social

Charlie | Monday 27th, 2011, 12:00am BST

Charles Chao has built¬†Sina Corp. into a Chinese Twitter. Now he wants it to be a Chinese Facebook, too. Mr. Chao, Sina’s chief executive, has led the company’s transformation from an online portal focused on news and blogging to China’s most talked-about social-media company. Since he launched Sina Weibo‚Äîwhich lets users send short, Twitter-like messages to their followers‚Äîless than two years ago, the service’s popularity has exploded, with more than 140 million users as of March, by Sina’s count. RedTech Advisors LLC, of Shanghai, estimates that Sina Weibo has 57% of China’s microblog users and 87% of its microblog activity. But in the ultracompetitive world of China’s Internet industry, such leads are hard to keep, and Sina faces pressure from rivals, who are pouring resources into the social-networking sector. Chief among them is¬†Tencent Holdings Ltd., an industry giant with a big pile of cash that has been aggressively promoting its own microblogging site. In an interview, Mr. Chao laid out a series of changes he is making to Weibo (which literally means “microblog”) to broaden its offerings and attract more users. A new version of the site, now being tested, will change its look with prominent sections recommending users of interest and offering games and other applications. Mr. Chao is trying to make it easier for users to define their relationships with other users‚Äîsuch as by labeling those who are real friends, as opposed to those who are just “fans.” And there will be special services, like “personal assistants,” to help the site’s most influential users with technical questions. Weibo’s initial incarnation was “the right way to enter this market,” said Mr. Chao, a former journalist in his 40s with a serious demeanor. But now there is “a great need for people to communicate, to share among friends, among people who know each other.” You can read the rest of this article at the Wall Street Journal