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China's Facebook, Renren, faces stiff competition

Michael Kan | May 5, 2011
Microblogging has become bigger in China than Facebook-like sites such as Renren, according to analysts.

"Tencent's Pengyou can have a lot of influence in this market," she added. "This will put pressure on Renren."

However, analysts have said the future of social networking in China is being paved less by sites like Renren and more by Chinese Twitter-like services known as microblogs. As a result, the rise of such services has taken users away from Renren. 

One of the most popular ones is operated by Sina, which also runs a top Internet portal site in the country. Sina reported in March that its microblog serviced had grown to over 100 million users, after only being in service for a year and a half. 

Mark Natkin, managing director for Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting, said the big draw that Chinese microblogs have over Renren is that they allow users to connect with a vast audience, either through posting comments or searching for the hottest topics. Sites like Renren, on the other hand, are limited to which people a user befriends.

"When people are going to [microblog], they are going to see not just what the hot topics are in their friendship groups, but also in the entire country," Natkin said. "Also microblogging is increasingly incorporating more features from social networking sites," he added, noting that Chinese users can post pictures and videos on their posts.

But analysts expect Renren will become more of a player in the Chinese market after acquiring new funds after listing on the NYSE. They also point to how Renren is listing on the stock exchange while the rumors persist that Facebook is preparing to launch a site in China with the country's largest search engine Baidu. 

"This IPO for Renren is going to get them a lot of cash," said Michael Clendenin, managing director for RedTech Advisors. "But the market is still very competitive and its still in its very early days."

 

 

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