During the past couple of decades, the world has gotten accustomed to the label "Made in China." Over the years, China has worked to shed its reputation of poor quality and has transitioned to a location where companies feel comfortable manufacturing their entire product line -- from the highest tier to the simple commodities. A similar shift is starting to develop in the IT industry. While Chinese Internet companies are relatively unknown within the international market, domestic firms have made marvelous technological and expansion developments in the past few years within China. Many of the social networking services in China are on par with international equivalents, and some are ready to challenge the current leaders on a global scale. Now is the time for us to divert attention towards the Chinese social networking scene and understand the progression in this region; it won't be long before these services penetrate users abroad.
Weibo is often understood to be the Chinese version of Twitter. But to label Sina Weibo in this fashion is to do a disservice to Sina. While Twitter has around 50 million registered users, Sina Weibo has over 300 million -- with over 10 million additional users signing up every month. In truth, Sina Weibo is akin to the $100-billion-valued Facebook. The difference being while the majority of the 800 million Facebook users are outside China, the majority of the 300 million Weibo users are within China. However, Facebook is available in over 70 languages, while Sina Weibo is only available in Chinese. But this will change soon. Sina Weibo has already announced intentions to produce an English version of their service, while Tencent Weibo already did so last year. With no indication that Facebook or Twitter will enter the Chinese market by complying with government regulations, the opportunities to connect China with the world through social networks such as Weibo remain high.
While Tencent Weibo is not the most successful micro-blogging platform within China, Tencent has produced the most popular mobile messaging service, previously called Weixin. Weixin was recently updated with a slew of new features and a rebrand. Internationally known as WeChat, this cross-platform application is set to take the world by storm. Already available in seven languages, WeChat has a photo sharing system similar to Path and a filter option for photos similar to the $1 billion company Instagram -- all of which is compressed impressively to save mobile data. With more features, users and resources than current market leader WhatsApp, WeChat is on the cusp of breaking into the international scene at a time where minor players like LINE and Kik battle alongside ineffective mammoths such as Facebook Messenger and Blackberry BBM -- with a shot at taking home the crown of the coveted mobile messenger space.
These developments in the social networking arena are just the tip of a massive iceberg known as the China IT industry. China has been a leader in manufactured goods for a while, and now appears poised to lead in IT. The international community must be ready to evaluate and analyze these companies, for their offerings reflect maturation in innovation and quality. The world better be ready for IT made in China, because China is ready for the world.
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