In China’s rapidly expanding social media sphere, the lion’s share of buzz is split between Tencent’s WeChat, a text and voicemail service that has grown so popular it is threatening the business of the country’s mobile phone carriers, and Sina Weibo, a microblogging service where users post unfiltered snippets of news in a cat-and-mouse game with the country’s censors.
The two services are markedly different. Much like Facebook, WeChat is used to communicate with friends, while Weibo is used to create a running conversation on news events, similar to Twitter. But WeChat’s surging popularity has many observers questioning whether Weibo can possibly prevail.
The debate played out online this week between Internet analyst Qian Hao and former Google China head Kai-fu Lee. As detailed by the news site Tech in Asia, their arguments went something like this:
Regardless of Lee’s second point, it is clear that WeChat and Weibo compete directly when it comes to time spent online, and for the mindshare of China’s digerati. It’s possible that the two sites will evolve into a complementary relationship similar to Facebook and Twitter; one a lucrative market for personalized ads, and the other an essential forum for debate and news. Perhaps most telling is the venue where Qian and Lee fought their rhetorical battle this week: on Weibo itself.