Sina Weibo Launched an English Web Interface, But Why So Little So Late?



Yesterday we discovered that Sina Weibo appeared to have rolled out a partial English-language interface, a revelation that Sina later confirmed to us. That’s great, and it has been a long time coming, but it also raises an awful lot of questions?

Why is it so late? This is perhaps the biggest and most puzzling question. Weibo has been around for nearly three and a half years; why is the company just now getting around to an English version of the web site? If Sina was still squarely focused on China, it might make some sense — although there are many overseas brands that would love an English interface to help them market to China via weibo — but that clearly isn’t the case. Sina launched a fully localized version of the Weibo iPhone app in English all the way back in April of 2011, why has it taken the company so long to catch up on the web?

Why is the translation so awful? What we saw yesterday was not exactly great, or even complete, localization. A commenter on that story claims to have seen an internal version of the English interface that is far more advanced, but we know even from just looking at the Weibo iPhone app that Sina can localize much better than this. Just compare these two images; the top is the new “English interface” we’ve been seeing on the Weibo web site, and the bottom is the Sina Weibo iPhone app released in April, 2011:

Why is it so buggy? The current English interface is being rolled out for Southeast Asia, but no one, regardless of their location, seems to be able to get it to work properly. Clicking this link seems to help temporarily, but then the English often disappears when you click another link within the site. We assume this will be fixed one way or another soon, but even so, it’s a little unlike Sina to release something this sloppy-looking publicly.

Given that Sina hadn’t actually announced the English interface yet, we probably discovered it before the company was quite ready for it to go primetime, so that may suggest an answer to the latter two questions. But the first one — why did this take so long? — remains entirely opaque. Especially with Tencent’s WeChat snatching up domestic and overseas users, if I were Sina I’d be working hard to localize fast in English and a bundle of Southeast Asian languages to be sure I was keeping up with Tencent, especially outside China’s borders.

Obviously, I’m not Sina, and Sina doesn’t seem to be doing that. Why not? I really have no idea.

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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