China’s Social Network websites

The Renren Network (人人网)

Originally developed and formerly well-known as Xiaonei Network, the Renren Network has become one of the fastest growing social networks with 280 million registered members in China. Among this massive user group, more than 50% of members are on the Eastern Chinese coast; the overwhelming amount of users belongs to the generation born in the 80s (35%) and 90s (45%). According to a report released from, the number of monthly active users who log on via a PC terminal and mobile device terminal on reached 110 million and 26 million respectively. In addition, this report also gives a further analysis on the type of operating system which is mostly used for getting access to Renren: 55.6% of members visit Renren through Android, 29.4% through IOS, 16.1% through Symbian, and 1.2% through Windows.

However, what is really Renren is a SNS (Social Network Service) with a variety of similar functions to the ones of Facebook. Therefore, Renren is often regarded as the “Chinese Facebook”.


It might be true that Renren copied the page design or style of Facebook since its establishment. Experiencing a fast expansion and development for several years, Renren has been dedicating in adapting a Facebook-like website to Chinese users’ habits and developing its own characteristic and functions to meet

Chinese users’ requirements. Following bulletins are the main differences between these two websites:

Social circles: due to the “one child policy” in China, it is common that most Chinese families only have one child since the 1980s. Those results into the fact that Chinese users on Renren tend to tightly connect with alumni, friends, and colleagues and not family such as brothers and sisters. On the opposite, in the West (such as for Facebook), a certain user’s social circle usually includes parents, brothers and sisters.

Private information: it seems that Facebook is more curious about personal privacy than Renren. Except for basic profile information and presentation, Facebook also leaves blanks for users to fill in about their religion, sexual orientation (interested in women/men), relationship, and work experience and so on, whereas Renren has never provided such items for users to fill in.

Tally function: Renren makes it possible for a user to check how many people have viewed your profiles, how many people scanned your pictures, and how many people shared your articles or videos, which enables users to review their popularity amid friends. However, it seems that Facebook has no interest in accounting for users besides the function called “Like”. Do you image Facebook making it possible to see who saw your profile?

Other points: As opposed to Facebook, Renren offers various additional functions such as DIY your web design, paid VIP member with rights to add background music and offer e-gifts, make private comments to pictures, light blogging, diary section.

Sina Microblog (新浪微博)

Sina Microblog is seen as a duplicate of Twitter and has already gathered 500 million registered members as for now. At the beginning, Sina Microblog’s features and style were indeed very similar to Twitter’s, which were always a remarkably simple and tidy design. During these 3 years development period, Sina has been dedicating in developing Weibo’s new functions and carrying out new user experience whatever it is on PC terminal or smart device terminal.

Here are a small summary about the difference between Sina Microblog and Twitter.

• Twitter consistently obeys the rule of simplicity and tidiness whereas Sina Microblog believes in rich and fully functions. Following are two screen shots from Twitter and Sina Microblog. At first glance, you might have a strong feeling that the page design of Sina Microblog is so colorful and vivid that it is messy. Apart from this, Sina Microblog makes it possible for users to establish their own exclusive groups for people who share similar interests. At the right bottom part and middle banner part, Sina Microblog provides places for advertisement and commercials.

• The operation of retweet function on Twitter is not the same as Sina Microblog’s one which allows users to add more comments or personal feelings about a post. Even Sina Microblog can enable users to use only one button so that users can retweet and comment at the same time.

• In order to encourage users to retweet and publish a post, Sina Microblog displays publicly the number of viewers who scanned your picture, your retweet, and left comments for you.

• After several design changes and function updates, Sina Microblog has become a place that is both used within the workplace or within family place that can help people make friends, enhance personal image, get closer to a stranger, and express complains about the society. It is a place for free speech. On the opposite, Twitter is emphasizing on broadcasting news and information.

On the 29th of April, Alibaba, the China’s e-commerce giant, announced that they have bought an 18 percent stake in Sina Microblog (what Chinese people called “Weibo”) service for a total of US$586 million. After 46 rounds of negotiation (!!!), Alibaba has become one of the most important shareholders of Sina Weibo and stated that they will work on user account connectivity, data exchange, online payments, and online marketing. Actually, Alibaba is not weighing much on the 500 million registered users of Weibo where actually only around 50 million of them are daily active users, but reagarding how those users spend their time on Weibo.

In other words, Alibaba is targeting a place where users always spend A LOT of time and pay attention. In fact, what Alibaba knows is what a consumer usually does when visiting Taobao or Tmall when he/she really needs something. Meanwhile, Weibo is a destination where those 50 million users “hang out” every day, which provides a perfect platform for Alibaba to publish advertisement to drive and increase the traffic towards their platforms. On the other hand, it will represent solid advertising revenues for Weibo once the interface will be furnished with Taobao advertisement. Besides, grasping Weibo’s massive database will help Alibaba getting a better understanding of consumer behaviors and demands in order to optimize its marketing and sales strategy. Welcome to the time of big Mergers and Acquisition in the Chinese Internet.

Written by Limo, a Chinese consultant from Daxue China Market Research.



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