We told you last week that Sina Weibo was planning a refresh, enhancing its user profile pages and adopting Google+-style sharing, and it appears that the plans are fairly advanced, according to Chinese blog Techweb.
Sina CEO Charles Chao outed version 5 of the company’s Weibo microblogging platform on an earnings call last week, noting that it is scheduled to arrive at the end of the third quarter and should help drive advertising revenue up. Techweb has now published alleged screenshots of the upcoming update, which is expected to begin a closed beta later this week.
The images show a drop down menu with expanded sharing options beyond private and public that now include groups, such as “classmates” and “colleagues”. Though Sina Weibo began as a relative clone of Twitter, it has since evolved to include a number of expanded features that Twitter itself lacks. This latest limited sharing feature appears to have been borrowed from the Google+ concept of sharing with select circles of friends.
Techweb was intrigued by a new “Status” box in the redesign that didn’t appear to have a publish button. It speculated that Sina was still finalizing the design, while noting that it lacked hard information about the company’s plans.
An alleged shot of the new user homepage showed a larger banner photo at the top of the page, similar to Facebook’s design, and support for a bigger profile photo.
Although Sina Weibo has risen to lead the Chinese microblog market, Sina is still figuring out how to profit from the service. Advertising on the service accounted for about 10 percent of the Internet giant’s second-quarter revenues, but the company is proactively looking to expand those numbers to compensate for the increased expenses associated with Weibo.
Chao has said Weibo will integrate improved payment, credit and data systems to ramp up monetization. Sina has already introduced VIP-style membership, promoted messages and is about to launch a Weibo credit card in a partnership with China Merchants Bank.
Sina reported Q2 earnings of $131.6 million and profits of $33.2 million last week. It also noted that it now has 368 million registered accounts on Sina Weibo and 36.5 million daily users.