Thu, May 19, 2011
Technology > Technology

Weibo vs Twitter

2011-05-19 06:55:10 GMT2011-05-19 14:55:10(Beijing Time)  Global Times

Both weibo and Twitter have a 140-character limit. But Sina weibo (top) allows users to post pictures, videos and audio directly and to even start a vote; while Twitter is text only.

Before he gets out of bed, Zhang Kaihong grabs his phone, logs on to his microblog and checks out the early morning buzz.

Throughout the day, Zhang will spend two to three hours reading and replying to a myriad of Chinese microblogs.

"I find microblogs provide much more information and they're a great place to learn," said the 36-year-old, who runs an online store.

"I like to listen to what different people think about different issues. There's just so much happening out there."

Zhang is one of hundreds of millions of tech-savvy, educated Chinese who are using their mobile phones and computers to stay in constant touch with friends, instantly report and read news and participate in a broad range of discussions.

Called "weibo"in Chinese, microblogging started as a copycat of Twitter, which is not accessible in China, and is catching on at an even more phenomenal rate.

While it took Twitter four years to reach 195 million users, the number of subscribers to China's top two weibo service providers alone have already skyrocketed past the 200 million mark after just two years in operation.

Tens of millions of weibo posts are created and reposted each day in China.

Many celebrities, media professionals and athletes have taken up microblogging and registered huge numbers of followers.

While international pop singer Lady Gaga leads all worldwide Twitter posters with just over 10 million followers, China's top six microbloggers each have more than 15 million followers on Tencent.

China's, and likely the world's, most followed micorblogger is Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang, with 16 million followers by May. There are 17 celebrity weibo writers in China who have more than 10 million followers each on Tencent weibo.

"Sina promotes its microblogs the same way it did its Web blogs, with celebrity appeal," said Hu Yong, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, Peking University and an expert on new media.

When microblogging first began in China, service providers invited celebrities to open accounts and that seems to have ignited the wildfire. A former Web portal executive told the Global Times that celebrities were signed to exclusive contracts and paid either by the character or the posting. "You likely won't find out how much they were paid, unless you ask them directly," she said.

Weibo shares the 140-character limitation with Twitter, but this is much less restrictive in the Chinese language, as most words require only two characters. Chinese weibo has also developed innovative multimedia features that allow users to send pictures and videos directly to their followers, while Twitter only allows users to provide links to pictures or videos that are posted online.

Perhaps the most innovative option on Chinese micorblogs is the ability to publicly comment directly to another person's post. "The comment function suits Chinese Web users who like to chat in groups," said professor Hu.

"That's why you see a lot of bickering and fighting on weibo," he said.

Speaking at a forum of entrepreneurs in February, CEO of Sina, Charles Chao, said Twitter is more like a one-way broadcast tool while the Chinese weibo is more interactive.

News to the minute

China's weibo writers are not only posting the mundane and trivial celebrity gossip. Tens of millions of people are also getting breaking news on their weibo account and then reposting it to their own followers.

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