China has more than 513 million internet users, and nearly half of them are using microblogs – mostly Chinese microblogging tools collectively called Weibo.The numbers from China Network Information Center’s report sound staggering, but China’s Internet penetration rate is actually only 38.3%.
The country added around 55.8 million new internet users in 2011, which represents a 4% annual growth — lower than the average annual growth rate of 6% between 2006 and 2010.
Interestingly enough, the slowdown was to be expected, as most people with a high school diploma (90.9%) and nearly all with a college education (96.1%) are already online.
The rest simply haven’t got the funds or the education level to use the web.
Microblogging might be the answer for further web usage growth, as it has become an extremely important way of accessing the web in China.
The number of microbloggers increased by 296% year-on-year to 250 million in Dec. 2011.
For comparison, Twitter reported 100 million active users and 200 million registered users in Sept. 2011.
Unfortunately for the largest microblogging service outside of Asia, grabbing a chunk of the vast Chinese market is, for now, an impossible task.
“We would love to have a strong Twitter in China, but we need to be allowed to do that,” said Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey at the AsiaD conference held in Hong Kong last year.
Weibo services, the largest of which is Sina Weibo, can compete anywhere they want. Sina Weibo is currently working on an international version; it’ll be interesting to see what it can do on the Western markets.