A Look At The Chinese Versions Of “Western” Web Companies (Image)

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There are over 720 million web users in China, slightly more than the combined users of the United States and the European Union. The humongous market is filled with exciting apps, websites, media organizations and basically everything you would expect from the internet.

The Great Fire Wall of China is a well-publicized term referring to the “closed” Chinese internet. It is often noted that the internet is monitored by the Chinese government, not too unlike “Western” monitoring from security and intelligence agencies. There are also multiple occasions of internet censorship in China, with certain media outlets and social networks banned from the Chinese Web.

Perhaps most impactful is the effects on Chinese web companies, with little competition allowed from “Western” companies, most of which are based in Silicon Valley, California, there has been massive growth in Chinese based web corporations. Most people have heard of the internet giant, Alibaba, although not everyone will know what it does. Media outlets will also often refer to “Chinese Facebook” referring to RenRen and its 219+ million users. Or The “Chinese Twitter” Weibo.

However, not all “Western” web companies are banned from China, and the few that have been allowed to enter the massive market are thriving.

The image below illustrates the Chinese equivalent of a number of major social media companies and apps. The comparisons are drawn from the primary function of the service, not from total users or the quality of the product. Of course many have been slightly tailored for the Chinese market, but often they operate in a very similar fashion.

You might also notice that just as in the US, the “majors” often buy up the new companies early on, and end up with a massive portfolio of web companies under their umbrella.

Chinese equivalent to US Tech companies

You might have noticed that the Microsoft owned LinkedIn has no significant competitor in China, early attempts to create a social network for business in China failed, LinkedIn still has a long way to go to become a major player in the Chinese employment sector, but they have strong brand recognition, and the service is used frequently in major cities across China.

Chinese versions of US and Western web companies

Update – UBER and their Chinese competitor DIDI have recently announced a deal that will have DIDI purchase UBER China, with investors in UBER and UBER China receiving a 20% stake in the new combined company of UBER China and DIDI.

You might notice that Airbnb also has no natural competitor in China, the service is allowed throughout mainland China, while they have had many problems in thriving in the massive market, the company helps to bring in significant international tourism revenue to China.

Facebook’s Instagram is still banned from mainland China, but tech-savvy Chinese netizens have long understood the value of a good VPN. (A service that allows web users to mask their location, and work around internet censorship) Instagram is thriving in China, where users still enjoy displaying the “perfect” image of themselves.

While a few attempts at a Chinese or Asian Snapchat have been launched, nobody has currently managed to convince Chinese web users to take themselves a little less seriously. One of Snapchats most important features is self-deleting stories, which have resulted in a more friendly and realistic version of people being uploaded to the internet as opposed to the more curated Instagram and Facebook.

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