Perhaps not surprisingly, no fewer than five Chinese Twitter clones have been launched in the last few months. To anyone with a modicum knowledge of China’s digital landscape, or the Chinese brand of innovation, if you will, the Twitter look-alikes simply follow in the footsteps of Sohu.com, sina.com, and Baidu.com, to name just a few examples.
Although China’s web culture - linguistic and social differences - and regulatory regime remain very different from those of the US, local entrepreneurs seem to jump at the first opportunity to replicate whatever hot across the Pacific. The very fact that China’s best and brightest are so closely attuned to the buzz, ephemeral or otherwise, validates America’s market dominance.
However, being just a Chinese knock-off of American giants is far from enough. Alibaba’s success can testify to the pivotal role of tweaking, if not altogether transforming, of foreign business models to cater to indigenous culture.
Speaking of which, while Twitter was hyped on a grand scale at South by Southwest, early this year, it remains, to put it charitably, a work-in-progress. To (scathing) critics, “[a]ll Twitter has is buzz: no new technology, no massive market share, no loyal users, no killer app.”
At the end of the day, it’s human nature to find an emerging form of communication such as Twitter, which takes the best elements of blogging and adds the immediacy of banter one would get from a live conversation, refreshing. Beyond that, it’s a mug’s game to predict whether the Chinese particularly take to “broadcast[ing] their throwaway thoughts to friends and the world through instant messaging, mobile phone text messages and their own websites”.
After all, the desire for the next “new, new thing” is entrenched in our business culture. But whether this seemingly “innovative” form is sustainable, above and beyond a novelty, remains to be seen.