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This article was published on July 7, 2011

Will Google+ be cloned in China?

Will Google+ be cloned in China?
Francis Tan
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Francis Tan

Francis Tan is the Asia editor of TNW, who is based in the Philippines. He is particularly interested in Asian Internet startups, social me Francis Tan is the Asia editor of TNW, who is based in the Philippines. He is particularly interested in Asian Internet startups, social media and e-commerce. Get in touch with him via Twitter @francistan or Email [email protected].

Google’s long-rumoured new social project has finally arrived and it has certainly created more buzz than… Google Buzz. Consisting of Facebook-style sharing and discussion, group video chat, mobile group messaging and automated content discovery, Google+ has been met with the general approval of early adopters.

But perhaps the biggest plus in Google’s latest attempt to create a social network is its ability to combine several sharing tools together to help users share content, facilitate discussions and upload items while making it easy to get more control over who they share things with and how.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, Google+ is currently blocked, or at least severely throttled to the point that it’s barely useable — which doesn’t come as a surprise given most popular social networks from the west such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked as well.

We have grown accustomed to China’s “copy first, innovate later” strategy, a trend wherein Western apps and websites are cloned locally — such as Kaixin and Renren for Facebook, Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo for Twitter, Youku and Tudou for YouTube. While still relatively new and not yet blazingly popular, it makes me wonder: will Google+ be cloned in China?

First off, let’s talk about Google+’s popularity. While detailed stats are hard to come by at this point in time, Search Engine Land made a comprehensive story how Google+ is gaining momentum — with Americans at least. Initially it gained the attention of tech bigwigs and Internet geeks, but given the utility it provides, it wouldn’t be surprising if more people follow suit.

I asked the question on Quora and I got a very interesting reply from Junde Yu, a mobile and Internet startup consultant in China, who is also an editor for Chinese tech blog TechRice. He said:

Probably not. Conversely, I think Google+ is a clone of Weibo.

This is a very interesting way of looking at it. The threaded comments, videos, photos — they work pretty much like Sina Weibo, China’s hottest microblogging platform. Although I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Google+ has cloned it, it does share a number of similar elements, sans the 140 character limit.

Originally labeled as China’s Twitter clone, Sina Weibo has innovated so much that it is now a more robust platform than its originator. Furthermore, it’s becoming a hybrid social network borrowing elements from both Facebook and Twitter — pretty much what Google+ is right now.

Given this line of thought, the thought of cloning Google+ in China would seem redundant. It seems as though China would have to clone its very own local microblogging product, and mind you there’s already a plethora of Chinese social networks out there. This makes me believe that Google+ itself won’t be cloned but it’s likely that elements will be “borrowed” from it — its unique sharing feature, perhaps.

With Sina Weibo expected to launch an English site soon, it may have a face off not against Facebook or Twitter, but Google+.