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This article was published on April 1, 2009

Attack of the Chinese Twitter Clones

Attack of the Chinese Twitter Clones
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Pieter-Paul lives in Beijing where he works for +8* (plus eight star), the leading cross-market and cross-culture innovation consulting comp Pieter-Paul lives in Beijing where he works for +8* (plus eight star), the leading cross-market and cross-culture innovation consulting company about Asia’s telecom and Internet. Before moving to China he graduated on the internationalization of the Chinese Internet industry. Besides writing about himself in third person Pieter-Paul is also co-author of the award winning China tech-blog MOBINODE.


Dr. Song Li, a very successful Chinese web-entrepreneur, seems to be pulling it off again. He recently launched Digu (嘀咕), a Chinese miniblogging service currently still in Beta that people in the West will soon unrightfully refer to as ‘the biggest Chinese Twitter’. Ok, admitted, Digu shares some major similarities with Twitter: it is a microblogging service and has a Twitterrish (or new Facebook startpage?) interface, but there is plenty more to it.

So what makes this service so special compared to Twitter or the many Chinese Twitter copycats such as TaoTao, FanFou, Jiwai, Komoo (checkout their funky design!), Zuosa, etc etc? First of all Digu – which sounds like whisper in Chinese – focuses a lot more on both entertainment and mobile. For instance from the start users can also share pictures rather than just text and hyperlinks. Besides a fancy looking design and offering a set of animated emoticons that’s basically it as far as differences go. But wait, that’s not the interesting part of the story! The interesting part is Digu’s strategy for becoming ‘The Chinese Twitter’ or whatever you want to call it.

Besides hiring 62 ‘whispering’ Chinese celebrities, which is a proven strategy for quickly attracting a userbase in China, the critical success factor of Digu has everything to do with its founder Dr. Li Song. Song is the co-founder of MeMeStar, a Chinese mobile mobile value-added service provider  sold for $20.8 to Sina in 2003 and is founder/CEO of, a successful Chinese online dating service. Needless to say Dr. Song has enough cash to spend on his new venture so Digu is seeded very well.

Synchronizing Digu

As a result even before their official launch, in the Beta version, Digu can be updated from almost all relevant platforms available in the market, both Chinese and Western(!). Among others users can update their status and upload pictures from, QQ (leading Chinese IM service that in February this year recorded 50 million peak concurrent users), MSN, Sina, e-mail, Firefox, and Gtalk. Of course a mobile version is also available, which adds up in China with over 650 million mobile phone users. The service can even be synchronized with Twitter and several Chinese Twitter clones!