Sina (NASDAQ:SINA) has unveiled its brand-new chat/messaging mobile service called, Weiyou – aka Weibo Messenger – to the public. So far it only has an Android app; but surely an iPhone version will appear soon.
The app works similarly with other instant messaging apps, like QQ and Gtalk. But something special about Weiyou is that it is built specifically for users on Sina Weibo, China’s smash-hit microblogging platform. The messages are sort of direct/private messages between users, and supports both text and voice messages. The UI is designed to look and feel like a group messaging app (pictured below), such as Whatsapp, Miliao, or Weixin. So although it is not tied to a phone number, it effectively works more like a group-messaging app.
While some might write this off as “another messaging app clone”, I actually find this strategy pretty interesting. Think about it… For messaging apps to be successful there must be a network effect. Meaning, the app will be useless if your friends aren’t on it. (I was actually one of the first paid users on Whatsapp but didn’t really use it until some my friends are on board).
But with 250 million users, Sina Weibo already has a huge advantage over the rest. You can get a microblog and messaging service using just one Sina Weibo account. But I’m not sure why Sina didn’t want to integrate Weiyou within its official app. Perhaps Sina has doubts whether Weiyou will actually catch on.
The biggest problem is that Weiyou came to the party slightly too late. Chinese users are now very tied down to conventional IM such as QQ, or have already gotten settled into other group messaging apps like Weixin or Miliao. Nonetheless, it is surely still worth a try.
Here’s the Weiyou app for Android in the Market.