Renren, China’s increasingly dominant social networking site, followed in the footsteps of Sina (and Tumblr) today and announcing the official launch of a new light blogging service it is calling xiaozhan (“station”). The service, which can be found here, appears to be fairly separate from Renren proper, although I’m sure it’ll be working hard to leverage its gigantic network of users.
Of course, it’s got some catching up to do. Sina has had its light blogging service Qing for some time now, and early last month Sina announced Qing already had over a million users and an iPhone app.
But of course, the devil is in the details. What’s Xiaozhan like? We’ve only given it a quick once-over, but it looks pretty slick. Registering an account is quick and easy — it requires a real name, or at least something that looks like a real name in Chinese, but then you can name your blog whatever you want. From there, the interface is pretty simple. You can post “statuses” (short, tweet-like updates), longer blog entries, and also upload photos and share links. You can also follow and be followed by others, and there are easy links for other users to share and comment on your posts. I set up a test page and made a couple posts here, so feel free to check it out for yourselves, I’ve made one of each kind of post and labeled them so you see the difference.
As far as user experience goes, it’s pretty good, and there are also customization options I haven’t yet had time to dive into. However, as with all social networking endeavors, a good user experience is meaningless if your users friends are all already on a competing service. Renren got into the light blogging game a little late, but with only a million plus users, Sina’s head start isn’t insurmountable, and Renren does have a giant user base it can bring to bear.
We’ll keep an eye on Xiaozhan and see if it takes off. If you’re interested in the PRified version of this story, click here for the original release.