As copycatting goes, China is King. Now while we normally associate copies with inferior quality or some odd defect from the original, Xiaonei, on the other hand, is a great example of digital copycatting done right. It’s funny how I’ve turned copying someone else’s work into a positive. This is just one of many signs that I’ve been in China too long.
Xiaonei.com is the biggest and most influential SNS website in China. It’s an unabashed straight up copy of Facebook; and provides users with groups, instant messaging, albums, marketplaces and other online service experiences to meet their needs for association, information, entertainment and trade.
As of today, Xiaonei has over 40,000,000 registered users, 400,000,000 PV, 22,000,000 daily visits. These stats are from Xiaonei, and are a little on the extreme side, but hey – when you reach success by completely copying another well established website and received no IP repercussions, then what’s a little fudging of the numbers right? That’s small time stuff.
A familiar friend: Facebook.
Xiaonei.com: Digital Déjà Vu.
Xiaonei was created in 2005, and similar to Facebook, was favored primarily among college students. At the end of 2008, Xiaonei decided to broaden its target market to include a wider user base… like Facebook (hmm I’m sensing a trend). It currently has groups of 1000 oversea colleges, 3000 domestic colleges, 8000 high schools, and 85,000 companies.
According to chinarank.org.cn, Xiaonei ranks 52 among all websites in China. It’s daily traffic is around 7200 out of every one million netizens.
Why Xiaonei beat Facebook in China.
This one is just embarrassing. While Facebook has a Chinese version, many users complained that the translations lacked accuracy. If you’ve ever tried to learn Chinese, then you know it’s a very complex language. I mean c’mon, all the words are pictures for godsakes; and that’s just the beginning. With its 5000 years of history, the Chinese know how to turn a phrase in their own language. So when coming across Facebook’s obvious obliviousness to the Chinese language, many users got turned off.
Facebook’s localization lacked the finer points of the Chinese language.
How important is the correct localization? We’ll clearly important enough to launch Xiaonei into the internet stratosphere, while Facebook China took a backseat. Design-wise, Xiaonei’s inner and outer pages are pretty much copies of Facebook, localizations seem to be the biggest variable factor.
Primary User Interactions.
Unlike other BBS or forums like Tianya.cn, Xiaonei is a pure social networking site; it’s simply an online version of your life. You can meet friends, chat, gossip, share, etc.
Primary Target Group.
校内（xiaonei，means at campus in Chinese), thus Xiaonei’s main targets are college students, age 18 – 25; especially students in 1-tier or 2-tier cities.
Xiaonei dominates the Chinese college online market. For example, Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) group on Xiaonei has 23,089 members now, while the number of native students studying in SISU is currently about 7,000… alumnus outnumber students. This provides a positive social impact on many student’s lives, both during and after college.
Who Advertises on Xiaonei?
Pretty much any company trying to reach college students. This includes the usual suspects of FMCG; from Coke, to Maybelline, to P&G.
Xiaonei Tests the SNS Profit Waters.
I’ve always thought that the new trend in social media is akin a modern day goldrush; seems easy to do, the people who do it first will reap huge rewards, and its hard as hell if you’re the 2nd+ mover. Most social media networks in China do not make a profit; but Xiaonei on the other hand has tested out several ways to bring home the bacon beyond the simple banner ad.
Buying virtual gifts for friends? Perhaps you have too much money.
Expanding its user base was an obvious move; however, what is it about Chinese that can accelerate the user base registration process? Taking a cue from QQ, China’s top instant messenger service, Xiaonei began selling virtual goods, virtual pets, virtual gifts; it has even created its own virtual currency to purchase additional services; partnering with online banks like Alipay.
Who Competes with Xiaonei?
Kaixin001.com competes directly with Xiaonei; the current trend is an online exodus from Xiaonei to Kaixin001 after graduating from college.
Kaixin001 is another social media network with a big focus on online games. I guess Chinese have more time to play games after school than during school? Time to take a closer look at your Chinese employees!
Another reason Kaixin001 is taking over could be related to Xiaonei’s recent sale to a Japanese company, Soft Bank. When mixing China’s general negative sentiment toward Japan for atrocities committed during WWII, many Xiaonei users feel their information isn’t safe anymore. Is it a valid fear? Irrelevant; perception will dominate logic; and as the graph shows above, Xiaonei may get left behind.
Personal Experience with Xiaonei
From BA360′s intern, Veronica:
It took me a long to decide to use Xiaonei. To me, it was just another windows live space, blog… etc. But since all my friends and classmates were using it, I finally went ahead and signed up after a year.
Xiaonei is actually something different. Let’s leave the fact that it’s a copy of Facebook aside. Xiaonei is a combination of blog and social interaction. It inherited the alumni website phenomenon going on around 7 years ago by narrowing down Facebook’s usual targets to students. The interface is quite well designed. Clean and clear color with user-friendly format. I like it. Considering the original Facebook’s evolving look is getting worse, Xiaonei is doing a good job as a copycat SNS.
As a young netizen, I never use BBS, but I do use Facebook and Xiaonei every day! At first, I couldn’t believe I found so many primary school classmates who I thought I lost forever! I like to see what’s going on among my friends. As it’s obvious that we are apart in different countries, areas, have different matters to deal with; we communicate online, write down notes, moods, upload pictures, publish information.
Now my college teacher is using Xiaonei as a college information publishing platform. She put university job info, admin info in her Xiaonei page. She usually SMS us “I have put job info in my Xiaonei.” So I have no reason not to use it, do I?