HP Labs has done some interesting research on the social media industry in China, in particular how it has managed to adapt and thrive according to the unique and at times prohibitive control exerted by the authorities.
The paper, What Trends in Chinese Social Media?, examines micro-blogging service Sina Weibo. This Chinese language site already has over 140 million users, almost to a person from mainland China.
Running some clever analytics software, HP found that, while Twitter trending topics tend to be based on current affairs, content on Sina Weibo is mainly entertainment-based, with re-tweets forming a much larger percentage of posts.
For the more cynical observer, it wouldn't be difficult to discern why Chinese citizens are less likely to post potentially controversial current affairs content which could get them into trouble, and why many favour posting others' content rather than their own.
Or could such content be subject to removal by the government? After all, from 2009-10, 41 per cent of Chinese web sites were removed from the web after a crackdown by the authorities, according to a recent report.
Why should we care? Well, aside from the fact that China will be the largest and most powerful economy in the world in the not too distant future, it already has the largest number of web users on the planet.
Any new tech firm looking for a captive audience must surely consider the potential market of over 420 million users and growing, but also needs to know the peculiar legal, cultural and linguistic constraints that may make expansion east a difficult task.
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