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China’s Sina Benefits From Surge in Microblogging

One of China's largest microblogs reported Thursday that it added 40 million registered users in just two months, reflecting a surge in interest in Twitter-like microblog services in the country.

The Chinese company Sina reported the figure during an earnings call. Sina's microblogging service, also known in Chinese as weibo, now has a total of 140 million registered users.

Sina is investing heavily in engineering and marketing in connection with weibo and its video service, which resulted in the Internet portal's net profit in the first quarter dropping to US$15 million, down year-on-year by 38 percent.

Competitor Tencent reported on Wednesday that its own microblogging service had 160 million registered users a year after it was launched.

Microblogs have begun to surpass in popularity the Facebook-like social networking sites in the country, according to analysts.

The online social networking needs met by pure-play social networking sites like Facebook are not very high in China or other Asian cultures, Sina CEO Charles Chao said.

Sina's target is to go beyond 200 million users by the end of the year, he said.

This number would put Sina on par with US-based Twitter, which now has about 200 million registered users. But while Twitter was launched in 2006, Sina's microblogging service went online in 2009.

China is one of the world's largest Internet markets, with 457 million Web users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Microblogs that are based in China have grown in popularity after Twitter was blocked in the country in 2009, following ethnic rioting in the country's western Xinjiang region.

As competition heats up among Chinese microblogs, Sina plans to incorporate more social networking features to foster stronger relationships between users. It will be adding an instant-messaging feature to the service in the next one or two months. The plan builds on Chao's view that pure-play social networking sites and microblogging will converge in the future, and share many of the same features.

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