There are 625 million active social media accounts among China’s 618 million internet users. But none of them are using, at least officially, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Understanding the complex web of microblogs and social networks that act in place of these banned services can be challenging, but for the investors involved, the rewards can be huge. Here’s a breakdown of the main contenders in the Chinese social media space.
Service: Messaging application
Founded: In 2011 by Tencent
Registered Accounts: 1.1 billion
Monthly Active Users: 500 million
Other: In 2014, Barclays analysts valued WeChat as a standalone business at $30 billion, or roughly $95 per user, on the back of strong revenues from in-app stickers and gaming. When Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion, it paid $45 per user.
Founded: In 2009 by SINA Corporation
Registered Users: 600 million
Monthly Active Users: 176 million
Mobile Monthly Active Users: 72.7 million
Other: In 2012, the Chinese government codified its punishments for reporting rumors and/or controversial information. Since then, the number of posts on Weibo has fallen by 70%.
Service: Social Network
Founded: By Joseph Chen in 2010, Went Public in 2011 on NYSE
Registered users: 219 million
Monthly active users: 44 million (September 2014)
Other: RenRen is almost exclusively used by college students
Service: Social network
Founded: In 2005 by Tencent
Registered users: Over 700 million (2014)
Monthly active users: 654 million (2014)
Other: QZone charges users for the ability to blog and share pictures. It is especially popular in China’s Tier 2, 3, and 4 cities.
Service: Online video
Founded: In 2010 by Baidu/Providence Equity Partners
Registered users: 500 million
Monthly active users: 94 million (January 2014)
Other: iQiyi surpassed Youku as China’s most popular online video site in January of 2014.