Sina Weibo users set new messaging record, but is engagement on ‘China’s Twitter’ falling?

Sina Weibo users set new messaging record, but is engagement on ‘China’s Twitter’ falling? ...

China’s Sina Weibo has broken its record for messages sent per minute, after 863,408 ‘tweets’ were sent during the first minute of the Chinese New Year.

The record surpasses the previous best of 731,102 posts, set during the last Chinese New Year period, as Tech In Asia reports. The milestone is impressive but it comes at a time when users of Weibo — which is often seen as ‘China’s Twitter’ — are reported to be less engaged with the service than ever in response to China’s efforts to minimize its influence as a free thought platform.


A report commissioned by The Daily Telegraph measured the activity of 1.4 million Weibo users over the past three years, concluding that activity has dropped drastically, particularly in the wake of a crackdown on the service during the final months of 2013.

The newspaper suspects that China’s aggressive regulations to curb the service have reduced engagement within the sample group. The government has taken a range of actions to ‘clean’ what it calls ‘online rumors’ — perhaps best described as information that is at odds with the regime. Regulation and action has included the introduction of compulsory real-names in 2012, the shutting of Weibo’s commenting function for three days, a user contract to increase accountability, and more.

The Telegraph graphic below plots Weibo’s most significant milestones over the past three years against the activities of the sample group. The result suggests that last summer’s crackdown was particularly effective (for the government) in lowering activity.

This is a screenshot — we recommend that you visit the Telegraph directly for an interactive version.


Sina Weibo’s apparent loss is very much a gain for popular messaging app WeChat.

The service, owned by Internet giant Tencent, has more than 270 million active users and has become a key service in its own right. WeChat has been jabbing away at Weibo for a while, evidenced by Sina chairman Charles Chao’s admission that increased competition is reducing time users are spending on Weibo. Furthermore, Sina has even introduced its own chat app rival.

Interestingly, WeChat is almost certainly a service that concerns Chinese authorities less than Weibo. That’s because it hosts private conversations — both one-on-one and in groups — which cannot go viral in the same way that posts on Weibo (or Twitter, for that matter) can.

Despite being a private service, Tencent has come under fire for censoring users that attempt to send sensitive terms in WeChat. The company denied those charges and blamed a service “glitch”.

Sina, which is listed on the NASDAQ, says its user base continues to grow. Its most recent report claims 60.2 million daily active users, which is an 11.2 percent year-on-year increase.

Images via Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images, Tech In Asia, Daily Telegraph

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