Sina Weibo took a very sharp hit in 2013: Why?

By Alex Saltarin, Tech Times | January 20, 11:54 AM

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Sina Weibo

Top Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo lost 9 percent of its total user base in 2013, thanks to new offerings from rivals and government crackdown on dissidents who use Weibo to voice their protests.
(Photo : Alex Saltarin | Tech Times)

Microblogging has been one of China's favorite pastimes and Sina Weibo is the undisputed top dog of the Chinese microblogging site. However, it seems that Sina Weibo will be in for a tough time this year. A recent report indicates that the microblogging site lost 9 percent of its user base in 2013.

Wiebo is the Chinese word for "microblog." While there are numerous microblogging sites in China like NetEase Weibo and Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo is undoubtedly the most popular, controlling around 30 percent of the market share back in the year 2012. Due to the market penetration that Sina Weibo enjoys, netizens often use the word Weibo to refer to Sina Weibo.

In 2013, Weibo still remains one of the most popular site for the Chinese people but the site has been losing market share to a few competing sites and services. A recent report indicates that the total number of users on Sina Weibo decreased from 308.6 million users to 280.8 million users last year.

The shift may partly be influenced by the massive increase in smartphone use among Chinese youth. Due to the number of available apps that were built from the ground up for use with smartphone, a large number of young Chinese have been moving on to other more modern platforms. WeChat, an app made by Sina Corp.'s rival Tencent, has been enjoying a surge in popularity in recent months. WeChat is an instant messaging services that is very similar to WhatsApp, another app that's becoming more and more popular in the West.

Tencent's app, also called Weixin in China, is responsible for taking away 37 percent of the users who have moved on from Sina Weibo.

Aside from dealing with encroachments from aggressive and more modern competitors, Sina Weibo is also dealing with another pressing problem - censorship from the government. Sina Weibo became popular years ago because of its role in serving as a platform that people could use to voice out their opinions and discuss pressing political and internal Chinese issues. In recent years, however, Sina Weibo's free and open space for dialogue has been under siege from conservative government elements. Due to stricter directives from the government, Sina Weibo is now merely a shadow of what it once was. In fact, the Chinese government has passed a law saying that users who post "inaccurate" statements could face jail time if their statements were reposted or shared over 500 times.

While Sina Weibo still continues to be one of the biggest and most popular platforms in the country, the latest development may ring its death knell.

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