Internet-related businesses are a fad in China. One shortcut is to tailor successful overseas models to the huge Chinese market. But transplants of Westernized business models do not always translate to the Chinese market.
Facebook, the world’s second-most used social networking web site, which was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, entered China in June last year with its Chinese version, zh-cn.facebook.com. Compared with its global users of 250 million, registrants to the Chinese-version Web site has been insignificant, at roughly 280,000.
The introduction of a Chinese-language Web site was a logical step for Facebook after it had been expanded in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and even Catalan. But the Chinese-edition Facebook was to compete with a swath of domestic social networking services: Xiaonei.com, 51.com, Hainei.com and the also Chinese-version of MySpace.
Facebook probably will not make it in China. The primary purpose of the majority of Chinese Internet users is to find entertainment from the Web. The Internet in China has not yet seen an expansion of real social networks.
Instant messaging tools such as Tencent QQ (ICQ), MSN and now Fetion, a new service provided by the country’s mobile telecommunication giant China Mobile, can satisfy most of social networking needs. A comparative successful social networking Web site Q-zone, deriving from QQ, announced it had 170 million active members by March 2008. QQ is known for its expansive lists of contacts, not necessarily people known to each other before.
China.org.cn thinks that one key merit of Facebook is the use of real names — but not in China.
Few in China feel online social networking something serious. For people who expect to date others or have casual encounters Facebook is not the way to go. It will have to either change tremendously or conduct a massive educational campaign to succeed. The illustration is the writer’s resignation.