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Tencent Weibo Launches English Version, Goes Bilingual Faster than Sina

While surfing around Tencent Weibo today, we realized something unique about the Chinese microblogging site – it has launched an option to view it in English. Which means that it has beaten its sworn rival Sina Weibo to the punch.

Fellow blogger Willis Wee is also seeing Tencent Weibo in English automatically – probably by detecting the default language of our browser or OS.

It seems like there’s some IP-sensing arrangement to ensure that the right readers in various geographical locations are getting the appropriate language version. We made a check in U.S, India and Malaysia, and indeed t.qq.com is showing up in English rather than in Chinese. However, the Chinese version continues to show in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Tencent Weibo now supports simplified Chinese and English, while rival Sina Weibo supports both simplified and traditional Chinese character sets. Sina has an English version in the works – but clearly Tencent has won this race.

Sina Weibo’s most popular user is the actress Yao Chen, who gathered 10 million followers back in July of this year, and now has 12.5 million. In contrast, Tencent Weibo’s hottest user is the athlete Liu Xiang – you can follow him here – who has already sprinted to 22.6 million fans.

The English version of Tencent Weibo - as seen on the page of actress Shu Qi.

It’s interesting to see that many Chinese celebrities are not using both – perhaps earning endorsement money from being loyal to only one of China’s two biggest microblogging platforms. Some Chinese celebs are agnostic, however – such as Hong Kong actress Shu Qi (pictured above).

It’s somewhat surprising that Tencent has beaten Sina over its English version despite Sina Weibo being the first to announce its intention to the world. It’s also unexpected that Tencent would do it so quietly – we think it slipped out over the weekend. We’re still unsure how Tencent will promote its microblogging services to English-speaking markets. Perhaps through celebrity endorsement, just as it did in China.

We’ll contact Tencent to see if we can get any update on this story.

[Written with Willis Wee, in ninja-blogging realtime]



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