Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
Two of China’s brightest technology firms, microblogging champ Sina and smartphone marker Xiaomi, are being tipped to announce a partnership that will see the two combine their respective messaging apps to fight off the threat of mobile messaging, specifically rival Tencent‘s 200 million-user strong Weixin (know internationally as WeChat).
Reports from China — via Marbridge — suggest that a deal to unite Sina’s Path-like Meyou with Xiaomi’s Miliao chat service will be revealed this week, as both respond to the growth of Weixin, the Skype-meets-WhatsApp service that will reportedly hit 300 million downloads in January.
Facebook is rumored to be considering a move into the mobile messaging space with WhatsApp, but such services are already cutting into social networks in Asia, where a glut of apps have sprouted significant user bases in the last year or so. China is no exception and Tencent is the dominant service there.
The service has become so mainstream that Sina’s chairman Charles Chao publicly admitted that Weixin’s surge in popularity has seen Sina Weibo’s 400 million plus registered users spent less time on the microblogging service. Weixin is just scratching the service at this stage and Tencent has said it will introduce mobile payments via its Tenpay service, which could give it real money-making potential. That’s on top of income generated from brands, such as Nike and Starbucks, which run marketing campaigns through it.
All of this furthers Sina’s pre-existing need to boost its business on mobile — a dilemma that Twitter itself has faced — and a tie-in with Xiaomi, which is often likened to a Chinese version of Apple, make some senses.
Milao is available on Xiaomi devices only — including its much heralded new Mii-Two phone — but the service is gathering steam rapidly and, in August, it passed 1 million concurrent users for the first time. While the precise details of any union are unclear at this stage, a partnership that allowed Miliao users to post to Meyou, or Sina Weibo itself, could boost engagement.
In the longer-term, however, Sina needs to figure out how it can make Weibo as popular for advertisers and users as Weixin/WeChat is.
Sina’s Meyou was launched back in July. As well as linking up with Sina Weibo it bears more than a passing resemble to Path, as we said at the time. That’s no coincidence since Path has repeatedly stressed that Asia is its fastest growing market.
Related: Sina Weibo rolls out attractive redesign with Google+ style selective sharing
Headline image via Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images
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