Sina Microblog – better known in China as Weibo (pronounced ‘way-bore’) – is establishing itself as the leading Chinese microblog platform. According to Sina’s CEO, Weibo had more than 5 million users in early March 2010.
While Weibo is essentially the same concept as Twitter, there are a few differences:
1) Blog-like comments. Unlike Twitter’s ‘replies’, Weibo’s comments do not appear independently in the feed; instead, they are listed under the entry, more like a traditional blog. All discussion around a single Weibo entry, therefore, can be seen easily in one place.
2) Focus on verified accounts. Although Twitter now has now brought them in, verified accounts are a much bigger deal in Weibo; they are given out far more readily, to all kinds of celebrities and brands, and a pretty “v” appears by every verified user’s Weibo entry. With 1,259,038 fans, Yao Chen, a young actress, is the most popular ‘Weiborer’:
3) The backing of a Chinese giant. Sina is better known in China for its blogging platform, which is one of the most widely read in the world. This not only connects Weibo to a huge user base and content source, years of self-censoring experience have earned Weibo acceptance from the government. For these reasons and more, Weibo is in a very strong position in China.
4) Embedded picture & video attachments. By clicking on thumbnails that can be easily added to any Weibo entry, pictures or video can be viewed without leaving the page. This is this handy for the user and provides opportunities for marketing, as brands can more easily associate visuals with entries. The following screenshots show an embedded video before it is clicked:
And after it has been clicked:
5) Stringent self-censorship. Unlike Twitter, users risk having entries deleted by Weibo, without explanation, if they contain anything deemed politically sensitive.
6) A comprehensive portal page. Weibo’s portal page features far more than Twitter’s, with extensive lists including rankings for individual entry, topic, and user popularity.
7) An ‘eager’ automatic URL shortener. Enter any ‘http://…’ address — regardless of length — and it will be shortened to something like http://sinaurl.cn/kljlkj. While often handy, this will frustrate anyone that needs to make it clear to users exactly what link they’re following.