Weibo vs. Twitter
There are 300 million people using Weibo.com now and you have you ever heard of it?
Weibo.com is a Chinese website that functions very much like Twitter. "Weibo" in Chinese literally means "microblog." Weibo.com is operated by SINA Corportation, the largest Chinese-language infortainment web portal. There are other microblog/weibo services in China as well, but Weibo.com takes 56.5% market share on active user basis, and 86.6% market share on browsing time basis, according to a 2011 report by China International Capital Corporation Ltd.
You may wonder why Chinese people don’t just use Twitter. If you don’t know yet, China has one of, if not the most sophisticated Internet regulation systems in the world. Commonly known as the “The Great Firewall of China,” the government-run censorship system has decided to block many Western social networking sites that you may not live without: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, to mention just a few. However, in order to respond to the Chinese public’s demand for social networking sites, the solution is to create China's own SNS.
Although commonly known as the “Chinese Twitter,” I, a Chinese user who is quite addicted to Weibo, see more advantages of Weibo in terms of its layout and services than Twitter, even though I’m also using Twitter on a daily basis.
Weibo mostly functions like Twitter. Users include celebrities, corporations, organizations, and ordinary people. You can change the background image, choose colors for your texts,follow or block people and so forth. In terms of basic features, you can post at most 140 Chinese characters each time, as well as images, videos, or link them from somewhere else to your page.
This leads to the first thing I like about Weibo over Twitter--its word count. You know the frustration when you try to tweet something instantly on Twitter but it keeps telling you that you are over the word limit so you have to edit it down? However, with 140 Chinese characters you can say a lot but not too much to the point that people will get bored and stop reading. If you want to write in English, the good news is that it counts English by words not individual characters. On Weibo I never feel pressured to condense my messags that I want to express so eagerly at the moment. Isn’t the whole point of microblog to let you post thoughts instantly instead of wasting your time editing down your own words? Well, no one would write a thesis on Twitter, but it is better to have a little more space to express yourself.
- Once logged in, you will see feeds of yours and of people you follow
The second thing I like about Weibo.com and wishes to see the same feature in Twitter is the way it displays images. On Twitter, you recognize someone has posted an image when there is a small icon under a tweet with the words “View photo” besides it. Then you need to click on it and the image will expand below. This feature has actually improved a lot as in the past you would be directed to the image hosting site in order to see the photo. But on Weibo, you can see the preview of an image directly without making an extra click. Of course you can also click on it to expand but if you do not have the time, at least you have a basic sense of what the image is like. This feature about Weibo is especially convenient when you are using the app on your smart phone. As for Twitter you need to wait for the image hosting site to load the photo but on Weibo’s app, there is no need for spending this extra time. Again, Weibo makes it much faster to get the information--fulfilling the real purpose of microblog.
Finally, the retweeting/commenting system. On Twitter, when you reply to someone, it will show on your page and if you like to reply to other people a lot, your page will soon be occupied by tons of @XYZs. Moreover, when other people want to see your conversation with others, they need to come to your page and find it with almost no idea of the context. In addition, if you retweet, unless you want to do it “manually” i.e. copy and paste, or you are using an app that gives you the choice to comment and retweet at the same time, you usually can only retweet without the chance to add your own voice. However, on Weibo, your reply to other person will simply be shown in the “comment” under the post itself instead of generating another post on your page. Likewise, when you want to repost, the dialog box will show up and you can type in whatever you want to comment on that post and then repost it on your page. In this way, Weibo makes your own page look clean and under control.
To some extend, Twitter seems more like a personal and information-based SNS while Weibo is more conversational and community-based. The former is a perfect platform to post personal opinions, breaking news and other timely content, but it is not that convenient to receive comments and generate a conversation. Yet Weibo gives you more space to post, reply and add your opinion to other people’s posts. Perhaps to some extend, these two popular SNS also reflect the two countries’ ideologies: one treasures individualism and the other collectivity.